THE BOOK OF GENESIS –Cambridge Press-free ebook- by Uwe Rosenkranz

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

General Editor for the Old Testament:—


dean of ely


Book of Genesis

In the Revised Version

With Introduction and Notes



Dean of Westminster,

Sometime Bishop of Exeter, and of Winchester;

Fellow of the British Academy.


at the University Press


First Edition 1914


by the

General Editor for the Old Testament

The present General Editor for the Old Testament in the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges desires to say that, in accordance with the policy of his predecessor the Bishop of Worcester, he does not hold himself responsible for the particular interpretations adopted or for the opinions expressed by the editors of the several Books, nor has he endeavoured to bring them into agreement with one another. It is inevitable that there should be differences of opinion in regard to many questions of criticism and interpretation, and it seems best that these differences should find free expression in different volumes. He has endeavoured to secure, as far as possible, that the general scope and character of the series should be observed, and that views which have a reasonable claim to consideration should not be ignored, but he has felt it best that the final responsibility should, in general, rest with the individual contributors.



AN apology is due for the long delay in the appearance of this volume. It is ten years since it was begun. But, as Bishop of Winchester from 1903 to 1911, I had little leisure except during the annual summer holiday for consecutive literary work. The shortcomings of the present book, of which I am only too conscious, are partly attributable to this cause.

I acknowledge with gratitude my obligations to the larger Commentaries of Dillmann, Driver, Gunkel, and Skinner, and to the smaller books of Spurrell and of Bennett. I should like especially to refer to the encouragement I received from my friend Dr Driver, whose loss all English-speaking Bible Students are deploring, and whose work on the Old Testament generally, and on Genesis and Exodus in particular, has so greatly promoted the cause of Sacred Study on lines of reverent criticism and simple faith. My old friend, the Dean of Ely, as General Editor of this Series, has helped me with many useful suggestions. It only remains for me to record my indebtedness to one who, when I was recovering from illness, added to other kindnesses that of copying out at dictation a very large portion of this little Commentary.


The Deanery, Westminster,

Easter Eve, 1914.



§    1.    Name

§    2.    Contents

§    3.    Composition

§    4.    The Documents (J, E, P)

§    5.    Literary Materials

§    6.    Historical Value

§    7.    Religious Teaching

§    8.    Moral Difficulties

§    9.    The Names of God in the Book of Genesis

§    10.    Bibliography


Chronological Note


Special Notes:

On the plural form of the word Elohim

On the Jewish Interpretation of 1:26

On the Sabbath

On the Cosmogonies of Genesis

On the Rivers of Paradise

On the Fall

On the Antediluvian Patriarchs

On the Flood Narratives

On 9:25–27

On the Genealogy of Shem

On Chapter 14

On Melchizedek

On the Sacrifice of Isaac

On the Name “Jacob”


A. Babylonian Myths of Creation

B. A Legend of Lamech

C. The Duplicate Account of the Flood

D. The Tel el-Amarna Tablets

E. The Isrelites in Egypt




Western Asia


diagram representing the Semitic conception of the Universe

Assyrian Winged Bull

Fragment of Cuneiform Tablet, belonging to the Deluge Series

Khammurabi (? Amraphel), King of Babylon, receiving laws from Shamash, the Sun-god

Egyptians measuring the wheat and depositing it in the granaries

Marduk and Tiâmat


§    1.    Name.

§    2.    Contents.

§    3.    Composition.

§    4.    The Documents (J, E, P).

§    5.    Literary Materials.

§    6.    Historical Value.

§    7.    Religious Teaching.

§    8.    Moral Difficulties.

§    9.    The Names of God.

§    10.    Bibliography.

§ 1. Name

“Genesis” is the name of the first book in the English Bible, as also in the Latin Bible (or Vulgate) and in the Greek Old Testament (or Septuagint). The name is taken from the Greek rendering of the Hebrew word for “generations” in Gen. 2:4, “This is the book of the generations (Heb. tôledôth, Gr. γενέσεως) of the heavens and the earth.” In the Codex Alexandrinus (5th cent. a.d.) of the Greek Old Testament, Genesis has the title of γενεσισ κοσμου, i.e. “The Origin of the World.” The word “genesis,” in the sense of “origins” or “beginnings,” has passed into familiar use in the English language.

In the Hebrew Bible the book is entitled Berêshîth (= “In the beginning”) from the opening word of the first verse.

The Hebrew Bible is divided into “The Law,” or Tôrah, “The Prophets,” or Nebhîîm, and “The Writings,” or Kethûbîm (Hagiographa). “The Law,” or Tôrah, contains the first five books of our English Bible, “the Pentateuch,” a title which also is of Greek origin (ἡ πεντάτευχος, sc. βίβλος) and means “the book of five volumes.” Sometimes, (a) because “the first stage in the history of God’s dealings with His chosen people ends with their settlement in the Promised Land, rather than with the death of Moses,” and (b) because the same documents can be traced from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Joshua, the first six books are treated as one work and spoken of as “the Hexateuch.” Berêshîth is the first book of the Tôrah.

We do not know at what date the Jews divided up the Tôrah, or Pentateuch, into five books. The division is mentioned by Philo and Josephus3, and it may fairly be assumed to have suggested the division of the Psalter into five books. The division of “Genesis” was a very natural one. It was clearly marked off, by the nature of its contents, from the four books that follow. There is an appropriate break in the narrative at the death of Joseph, and before the birth of Moses.

§ 2. Contents

(a) Two main divisions

The Hexateuch, as has been said, “forms in itself a connected whole, and displays to us the origin, choice, and planting of the people of God, or the founding of the Israelitish theocracy.” The Book of Genesis contains, in outline, the preliminary materials of the sacred history, previous to the call of Moses. These preliminary materials fall into two easily recognized divisions: (1) the Primaeval History of Mankind (chaps. 1–11), and (2) the History of the Hebrew Patriarchs (chaps. 12–50).

These two divisions may, for clearness’ sake, be subdivided as follows:

I.    Primaeval History. Narratives respecting

(i)    The Origin of the World and of the Human Race (chaps. 1–5).

(ii)    The Flood (chaps. 6–9).

(iii)    The Primitive Races before the call of Abraham (chaps. 10, 11).

II.    Patriarchal History: Narratives respecting

(i)    The Patriarch Abraham (chaps. 12:1–25:18).

(ii)    The Patriarchs Isaac and Jacob (chaps. 25:19–36:43).

(iii)    The Patriarchs Joseph and his brethren (chaps. 37–50).

(b) Arrangement of material

The arrangement of the material explains the plan which is followed throughout the book. It is not a history of the world; but it is an introduction to the History of the Chosen People. In consequence, as each stage in the Primaeval and Patriarchal History is reached, the collateral material is disposed of, before the main thread is resumed. Thus (1) the origin of the Human Race having been described, the descendants of Adam through the Cainite families are mentioned (4:16–26), before the main narrative is resumed in the descendants of Seth (chap. 5). (2) After the story of the Flood, the descendants of Japheth and Ham are recorded (chap. 10), before the main subject of the book is approached through the family of Shem (11:10 ff.). (3) After the death of Abraham, the story of Isaac’s sons is not commenced, until the descendants of Ishmael have been enumerated (25:12–18). (4) The account of Joseph and his brethren is not commenced, until the genealogy of Esau (chap. 36) has disposed of the collateral branch. The plan of the book, therefore, is continually to concentrate attention upon the direct line of the ancestors of the Israelite people, tracing them back to the very beginnings of the Human Race.

It has sometimes been maintained that the best sub-division of the book is furnished by the formula “These are the generations,” which is found eleven times in reference to (1) the heavens and the earth, 2:4; (2) Adam, 5:1; (3) Noah, 6:9; (4) the sons of Noah, 10:1; (5) Shem, 11:10; (6) Terah, 11:27; (7) Ishmael, 25:12; (8) Isaac, 25:19; (9) Esau, 36:1; (10) “Esau, the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir,” 36:9; (11) Jacob, 37:2. But the repetition of this formula offers no real clue to the analysis of the whole book, though it reproduces the outline of the contents of one of its component documents (see below, p. 28).

(c) Primaeval History

Chaps. 1–11. The first main division of the Book of Genesis consists of a group of Narratives which furnishes answers to the instinctive questionings of mankind: How did the earth, the sea, the sky, and the heavenly bodies come into being? What was the origin of the vegetable world, and of the birds, fishes, reptiles and beasts? What was the origin of man? What was the beginning of sin and of death? What explanation can be given of the sufferings of child-birth and of the laboriousness of human life? How did the arts and industries take their rise? What caused the difference of languages, and the various types of races dispersed throughout the world? What, again, led to the Flood of which traditions were handed on from one generation to another?

These Narratives, though doubtless based upon the cosmogonies which had come down from remote Hebrew ancestors, are conspicuous for their beauty and simplicity. They do not affront us with the superstition, silliness, or coarseness, which are too often prominent in the literature of cosmogonies and mythologies.

The events recorded are evidently regarded as affecting the whole human race. The scenes are neither those of actual history, nor those of mere mythology. We come across a few survivals of an older mythological element, e.g. God speaks to the inhabitants of heaven (1:26); the serpent speaks to Eve in human language (3:1–5); there is mention of the marriage of angels with the daughters of men (6:1–4). But these instances are very rare. The Narratives, while they preserve the outlines of earlier legends, have been adapted to the religious thought of the later Israelites. If, as is most probable, the primitive form in which they were current was polytheistic, practically every trace of polytheism has been removed. The Narratives are presented to us in such a manner as to convey in a fully developed stage the distinctive teaching of the Israelite Prophets.

(d) Patriarchal History

Chaps. 12–50. In the second main division of the book the Narratives belong to a different class. We pass from legends respecting the Origin of the World and of the Human Race to traditions respecting the earliest ancestors of the Israelite People. The portraits of individual personages are well and skilfully drawn. The scenes are laid in Palestine and Egypt, and the incidents, for the most part, are associated with well-known places, and are recounted with remarkable vividness of description.

The impression given of the religious life of the Patriarchs is that of the simple monotheistic worship of Jehovah. The power of Jehovah is felt in Egypt (12:17, 39:1–5), in the Cities of the Plain (chap. 19), in Gerar (chap. 26), in Syria (31:24), no less than in Canaan. The idolatry of the heathen is scarcely referred to. The teraphim, stolen by Rachel from her father’s house, and possibly included among “the strange gods,” constitute almost the sole exception (31:19 and 35:2–4).

The Patriarchal Narratives preserve to us traditions respecting, for the most part, domestic incidents in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Only in one passage (chap. 14), where “Amraphel” is very possibly Ḥammurabi, the famous Babylonian monarch, is any person mentioned whose name is found in the inscriptions of the contemporary ancient monuments.

In a word, the Patriarchal Narratives represent a group of Israelite traditions respecting remote ancestors, whose existence belonged to the twilight of history, anterior to the era of Moses and earlier than the beginnings of the Nation. The materials which are embodied in the Narratives are very various. But in this, as in the first division of the Book of Genesis, the contents have been brought into harmony with the religious thought of the worshipper of Jehovah.

§ 3. Composition

On the origin and composition of the Pentateuch the reader is referred to Chapman’s admirable Introduction to the Pentateuch (1911) in this series, Simpson’s Pentateuchal Criticism (1914), the articles in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, and Black’s Encyclopaedia Biblica, the Oxford Hexateuch (1900) by Estlin Carpenter and Battersby Harford, Driver’s Literature of the Old Testament (9th ed. 1913), and G. B. Gray’s Critical Introd. to the O. T. (1913).

The fact that the Pentateuch was known to the Jews as “The Law of Moses” (Luke 24:44; Acts 28:33), and was referred to as “Moses” (Acts 15:21), was once regarded as a sufficient reason for assuming that Moses himself was the author. This view, however, is no longer tenable. That Moses himself did not write the Pentateuch, as we now have it, is one of the literary conclusions of Biblical Criticism upon which scholars are unanimous.

Here it must suffice to point out three important considerations:

1. The Book of Genesis contains a number of passages which imply that at the time of its composition the Israelites were in settled possession of the land of Canaan.

(a) “The Canaanite was then in the land” (12:6, 13:7) is an expression which compares the age of the Patriarchs when the Canaanites were in undisturbed occupation of the land, with the age of the writer, when the Israelites had become its undisputed masters.

(b) “To,” or “Unto, this day” (22:14, 26:33, 35:20).

The names of places in Canaan are thus spoken of in accordance with the usage of Israelites who had long resided there; cf. Deut. 2:22, 3:14, 10:8, 34:6; Jos. 4:9, 5:9, 7:26, 8:29, 9:27, 10:27, 13:13, 14:14, 15:63, 16:10.

(c) “And pursued as far as Dan” (14:14). The town of Laish in the extreme N. of Palestine received the name of Dan, after it had been conquered by the Danites (Judg. 18:29).

(d) “Before there reigned a king over Israel” (36:31), an expression which implies acquaintance with the monarchy as the recognized form of government in Israel, i.e. a date later than Saul.

(e) The Philistines, who, as is most probable, are identifiable with the Purasati of the Egyptian inscriptions, established themselves in the reign of Ramses II (1300–1224 b.c.) in the S.W. of Palestine. They were regarded by the Israelites (cf. Deut. 2:23; Jer. 47:4; Am. 9:7) as invaders from Caphtor (=Crete). But the occurrence of their name in Gen. 10:14, 21:32, 26:1, is an indication that the traditions embodied in our book have come down to us from a time when the Philistines were accepted as the inhabitants of S.W. Palestine.

(f) “He had wrought folly in Israel” (34:7) is an expression which implies the existence of an ordered community of Israel (cf. Jos. 7:15; Judg. 20:6). “The land of the Hebrews” (40:15) is a phrase which would most naturally be used by a writer who regarded Canaan as the home of the Hebrew people. The fact that the “West” (e.g. in 12:8) is denoted by the Hebrew word meaning “the sea,” i.e. the Mediterranean, and “the South” by the word “Negeb” (e.g. 13:14, 28:14), i.e. the country S. of Judah, implies a writer dwelling in Palestine.

(g) Abraham is described as a prophet, nabî (Gen. 20:7). In 1 Sam. 9:9, we are told that “he that is now called a Prophet, nabî, was beforetime called a Seer, rô’eh.” The use of the word nabî is therefore more likely to be found in literature belonging to a time subsequent to, than to a time before, the age of Samuel.

2. The literary criticism of the Pentateuch shews that it is not like a modern book of history, written, from beginning to end, by a single author, but that, on the contrary, it is of composite origin, being a compilation of no less than four distinct writings.

To a modern reader such an account will sound strange and improbable. He reads the books in English as continuous historical works. And so in a true sense they are. But they are not homogeneous. Hebrew scholarship can, with a great degree of certainty, discriminate between the different materials out of which the books were composed. It is not often realized that, in the Hebrew Bible, all the narrative books have been composed in this way. The Books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah are compilations. The Pentateuch and Joshua are no exceptions to the general rule. They were built up out of previously existing materials. We must remember that there were no rights of Hebrew authorship. Writers made free use of earlier documents. They cut out and omitted: they expanded and amplified: they combined, adapted, and adjusted, according to the purpose which they had in view. See the examples of Hebrew and Semitic composite narrative given in Chapman’s Pentateuch, Appendix vii., “Characteristics of Composite Documents.”

Instead of the composite origin of Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch being a thing improbable in itself, it is, on the contrary, if analogy be appealed to, most reasonable and probable. It corresponds with what we know of the formation of other books of the Bible, and with the literary practice unquestionably followed in other Hebrew and Semitic prose writings.

3. Moreover, the discovery that the Book of Genesis is not a homogeneous work, but a compilation of different writings, has been found to explain, most simply and satisfactorily, the numerous minor difficulties and discrepancies which catch the attention of every careful reader.

For instance, why should there be two accounts of the Creation, in the one of which man and woman are created after all the animals (1:26), while, in the other, man is created before and woman after the animals (2:7, 18, 19, 22)? How is it that there are two versions of the number of the animals that went into the ark and of the duration of the Flood upon the earth (chaps. 6, 7)? Is it not strange that the promise of a son to Sarah should be given twice over (17:16–19 and 18:10 ff.)? that the name of Isaac should three times be accounted for by a mention of laughter (17:17, 18:12, 21:6)? that a second blessing should be given by Isaac to Jacob in 28:1 ff. without any reference to the blessing and the deceitful manner of obtaining it, just recorded in chap. 27? How is it possible, after such passages as 17:17 and 18:11, 12, to account for the statement that, after Sarah’s death, Abraham should beget a number of sons (25:1 ff.)? Who does not realize that the passages relating to Sarah in 12:11, 20:2 ff. are out of harmony with the statement as to her age in 17:17? Does not the account of Isaac’s failing powers in 27:1, 2 appear incompatible with the mention of his having lived to the age of 180 years (35:28), i.e. for 100 years (cf. 25:26, 26:34) after the marriage of Esau? How can we explain the mention of Rachel’s death in 35:19 and of her being alive in 37:10? How is it that immediately after the account of Benjamin’s birth and Rachel’s death near Bethlehem (35:18, 19), Benjamin’s name is included among the sons of Jacob born to him in Paddan-aram (35:25, 26)? Why should Esau’s wives have different names in 26:34, 28:9 and in 36:2, 3? How does it happen that we find varying explanations of the names Bethel (28:18, 19, 35:14, 15), Beer-sheba (21:31, 26:33), Israel (32:28, 35:10)? Is the description of Benjamin as a “child of his [Jacob’s] old age, a little one” (44:20) reconcilable with the statements as to the date of his birth (35:18, 23, 26), according to which he would have been not less than 20 years of age when he appeared before Joseph in Egypt (cf. 37:2, 41:46, 45:6)?

These are examples of difficulties and discrepancies to be found in the story of Genesis. The list could easily be added to. They are not compatible with the theory of uniform, continuous, and homogeneous literary composition. On the hypothesis of a single author and a continuous work, they would denote an extraordinary lack of literary attention and care. But, on the supposition that in the same book there are woven together portions of different documents containing similar, but not in all respects identical, accounts of the same narratives, we have an explanation which satisfies the requirements of the problem. Ridicule used to be directed against the Bible on account of the presence of these difficulties and discrepancies. That ridicule is seen now to be misplaced. We are able to understand their nature and cause. The Book of Genesis is a compilation. The combination of different documents has led to the inclusion of divergent statements. Numerous in quantity, though trifling in importance, these inconsistencies survive as evidence of the literary process, through which the books of the Pentateuch passed before they were given their final shape.

§ 4. The Documents (J, E, P)

In 1753 Jean Astruc, a French physician, published anonymously at Brussels a book entitled Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux dont il paroit que Moyse s’est servi pour composer le Livre de la Genèse. He had been led to infer from the intermittent use of different names of God in Genesis that Moses had employed different documents in its composition. This was the beginning of systematic literary criticism upon the Pentateuch. Other scholars carried on the work. It was soon seen (1) that the use of the Divine Names was only one of many literary characteristics by which the different component documents were capable of being distinguished, (2) that the different sources of the Pentateuch, thus linguistically and stylistically determined, (a) correspond to different stages in the development of the religion of Israel, and (b) reflect the influence of different epochs in the nation’s history. As the History of Pentateuchal criticism would carry us further afield than space will here allow, the student is referred to Chapman’s Introduction to the Pentateuch, Driver’s Literature of the Old Testament, Carpenter and Harford’s Oxford Hexateuch, D. C. Simpson’s Pentateuchal Criticism (1914).

After a century and a half of minute and laborious research, scholars are now agreed that the books of the Pentateuch and of Joshua present to us a compilation of four distinct documents, to which the names have very generally been given of (1) J, because of its preference for the Name familiarly known in English as Jehovah (Heb. Jahweh), translated “Lord,” (2) E, because of its preference for the Name Elohim = “God,” (3) D, the Deuteronomist, and (4) P, the Priestly Code. Of these four documents, three, J, E, and P, may clearly be identified in the Book of Genesis. The Deuteronomist, whose style and characteristics are so unmistakable in Deuteronomy and in certain passages of the Book of Joshua, has left little, if any, trace of influence upon Genesis (? 26:5).

J, E, and P may, as a rule, be identified by the character of their contents and by distinctive features of language. But the Priestly Code (P) can be very much more easily distinguished from J and E than these can be distinguished from one another. In style and diction as well as in selection and treatment of subject-matter there is a much closer affinity between J and E, than between either of these and the Priestly Code. As compared with J and E, P is always recognizable. But it is frequently impossible to determine whether a passage has been derived from J or E.

The J Narratives

The passages in Genesis which probably have been derived from J are as follows:

2:4b–4:26, 6:1–4, 7:1–8:22 (partially), 9:18–27, 10 (partially), 11:1–9, 28–30, 12:1–4a, 6–20, 13:1–5, 7–11a, 12b–18, 15 (partially), 16:1b, 2, 4–14, 18, 19 (exc. 29), 21 (partially), 22:20–24, 24, 25:1–6, 11b, 18, 21–26a, 27–34, 26:1–33, 27:1–45, 28:10–22 (partially), 29–30 (partially), 31:1, 3, 36–50, 32:3–33:17, 34 (partially), 35:14, 16–22, 36, 37 (partially), 38, 39, 41 (partially), 42–44, 46:28–47:4, 6b, 12–27a, 29–31, 49:1–27, 50:1–11, 14.

A glance through this list will shew that J contained the greater number both of the Primaeval and of the Patriarchal Narratives. Many of them are masterpieces of Hebrew prose writing. The story is told with beauty, vividness, and brevity. The dialogue which is introduced, in e.g. chaps. 3, 4, 18, 19, 24, 43, 44, adds a touch of brightness and life which it would be difficult to find surpassed in any literature.

The Narratives are pervaded with deep religious feeling. This is noticeable (a) in the account given of the beginnings of sin and crime (chaps. 3, 4), the spread of evil (6:1–8, 8:21), and the corruption of the people of the Plain (chap. 19); and (b) in the emphasis laid upon the Divine call which caused Abraham to migrate into Canaan (12:1–3), and the Divine purpose of goodness and mercy expressed in the promises to the Patriarchs (18:18, 24:7, 26:4, 27:28, 29). “In order to illustrate the divine purposes of grace, as manifested in history, he introduces … prophetic glances into the future (Gen. 3:15, 5:29, 8:21, 9:25–27, 12:2, 3, 18:18, 19, 28:14, Num. 24:17, 18), as he also loves to point to the character of the nations or tribes as foreshadowed in their beginnings (Gen. 9:22–24, 16:12, 19:31–38, 25:21–28, 34:25–31, 35:22, cf. 49:9 ff.).”

In representations of the Deity, J makes use of simple anthropomorphic expressions, e.g. 3:8 “the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,” 6:6 “it repented the Lord that he had made man,” 7:16 “the Lord shut him [Noah] in,” 8:21 “the Lord smelled the sweet savour,” 11:5 “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded,” 18:1 “And the Lord appeared unto him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day”; cf. 18:21, 33, 32:24–30.

Characteristic as is the use of Jehovah [Jahweh] for the name of God, Elohim (= God) is also found, e.g. in the colloquy between the serpent and the woman (3:1, 3, 5), and in the words of Eve (4:25) before “men began to call on Jehovah” (4:26); when a foreigner addresses an Israelite (43:29), or when, as in 32:28, 30 (Heb. 29, 31), 33:10, the use of Elohim seems intended to contrast the Divine with the human nature.

J traces back the religious institutions of Israel to the very earliest times, e.g. sacrifice (4:3), prayer to Jehovah (4:26), distinction of clean and unclean animals (7:2, 8:20), altars (8:20, 12:7, 8), enquiry of Jehovah (25:22).

There is an especial fondness in J for the etymology of proper names: (1) Of persons, e.g. “woman” (2:23), Eve (3:20), Cain (4:1), Seth (4:25), Noah (5:29), Peleg (10:25), Ishmael (16:11), Moab and Ammon (19:37, 38), Jacob and Esau = Edom (25:25, 26, 30), the sons of Jacob (29:31–30:24), Israel (32:28), Benjamin (35:18), Perez (38:29). (2) Of places, e.g. Babylon (11:9), Beer-lahai-roi (16:14), Zoar (19:22), Esek, Sitnah and Rehoboth (wells) (26:20–22), Beer-sheba (26:33), Bethel (28:19), Galeed and Mizpah (31:48, 49), Peniel (32:30).

The diction of J abounds in striking and happy expressions, e.g. “to find favour (or grace) in the eyes of” (6:8, 18:3, 19:19, 30:27, 32:5), “to call by [R.V. “on,” or “upon”] the name of the Lord” (4:26, 12:8, 13:4, 21:33, 26:25), and familiar phrases, e.g. “Behold now” (12:11, 16:2, 18:27, 31, 19:2, 8, 19, 27:2), “forasmuch as” (18:5, 19:8, 33:10, 38:26).

The E Narratives

The passages generally assigned to E are as follows:

20:1–17, 21:6–32, 22:1–13, 19, 27:1–45 (partially), 28:10–22 (partially), 29–30 (partially), 31–32:2 (partially), 33:19, 20, 34 (partially), 35:1–8, 37 (partially), 40, 41 (partially), 42 (partially), 45, 46:1–5, 48:1, 2, 8–22, 50:15–22.

The extent of narrative covered by E is thus much more limited than that of J. Whether any portions of E (e.g. possibly in chap. 15) are to be identified before chap. 20, is doubtful. But it may be assumed that E contained some account of the call of Abraham and of his migration into Canaan.

As compared with J, the narrative in E is less prominently marked by its religious thought. But it contains some of the most striking passages in the book, e.g. the story of the sacrifice of Isaac (chap. 22), and the bulk of the story of Joseph (chaps. 37, 39–50).

Anthropomorphisms are not so prominent as in J. The revelation of the Divine Will is generally conveyed through a dream (20:3, 6, 28:12, 31:10, 24, 37:5–11, 40, 41, 42:9, 46:2), or by an angel (21:17, 22:11, 28:12, 31:11, 32:1). Very interesting are the traditions of worship, e.g. the altar on Moriah (22:9), and at Bethel (35:1, 3, 7), the pillar (maṣṣêbah), the vow, and “the tenth” at Bethel (28:18, 22), the teraphim of Laban stolen by Rachel (31:19, 20) and “the strange gods” (35:2). Abraham is called a “prophet” (20:7). Important personal details in the patriarchal story are preserved to us by E, e.g. the names of Deborah, Potiphar, Zaphenath-paneah, Asenath; also the mention of Jacob’s purchase of land at Shechem (33:18–20), his conquest of Shechem by arms (48:22), and many details of Egyptian life, e.g. 41:14.

Characteristic of E is the preference for the use of the Divine Names Elohim (though Jehovah occurs, e.g. in 22:11, 28:21), and Êl, used absolutely, 33:20, 35:7, 46:3.

There are also many phrases and words which are regarded by scholars as sound criteria for distinguishing the materials of E. But, as appears from the frequent occurrence of the word “partially” in the list of passages assigned above to E, it is often impossible to say for certain whether the tradition has been derived originally from J or E. For it seems to be the case both that passages derived from E were very commonly expanded by extracts from J, and that details of interest recorded in E were very commonly inserted into the Narrative of J.

The J and E Narratives

(a) Origin

Collections of popular narratives containing the early folklore of the Israelites were derived from, or based upon, oral tradition. This had been recited at festivals, treasured up in connexion with sacred spots, repeated over camp-fires, and declaimed at burial-places. Some of the narratives may soon have obtained a stereotyped form, others may long have been current in varying traditions. A certain number were early embodied in collections of songs, like the Book of the Wars of Jehovah, quoted in Num. 21:14, and the Book of Jashar, quoted in Jos. 10:12, 13 and 2 Sam. 1:18. All of them would, presumably, be circulated and known in different versions, before they were committed to writing.

The collections represented by J and E respectively had, probably, been only very gradually formed; and may each of them have been known in shorter and longer versions. It would be a mistake to regard either of them as the work of a single author, or as the composition of a single mind, or as the product of the generation in which they were committed to writing.

(b) Locality

It has, on the whole, been deemed probable that J presents us with popular traditions current in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In J, Abraham and, possibly, Jacob appear as living at Hebron: the story of Judah and Tamar seems to contain a tradition of S. Palestine tribal memories. In the Joseph narratives, Judah enjoys a position of eminence above his brethren. E, on the other hand, has been assigned to the Northern Kingdom. The sacred places of Bethel, Shechem, and Beer-sheba (a place of pilgrimage from the Northern Kingdom, Amos 5:5, 8:14) are given great prominence. Abraham resides at Gerar and Beer-sheba, Jacob at Beer-sheba and Shechem. Joseph is the hero among his brethren; alone of Jacob’s sons his body is to be carried out of Egypt (50:25). Reuben, not Judah, takes the lead as the eldest-born. In E Hebron is not mentioned; and Central Palestine is Jacob’s residence for a long time.

(c) Date

At what date they were respectively committed to writing, can only be a subject of approximate conjecture. In the case of J, it has been pointed out (1) that the curse pronounced upon Canaan (9:25) would reflect popular feeling after, but not long after, the final reduction of the Canaanites to subjection (1 Kings 9:20): (2) that the boundaries of the Promised Land, as defined in 15:18, correspond with the boundaries of Solomon’s kingdom in 1 Kings 4:21; and (3) that the prediction of Edom’s subjugation under Israel and of his ultimate recovery of liberty (25:23, 27:40) would hardly have been written before the time of Edom’s successful revolt (2 Kings 8:22). Obviously such a line of argument is not to be pressed.

In the case of E, it has been conjectured that the compact concluded between Jacob and Laban in the mountain of Gilead (31:23–55) may reflect the relations between Israel and Syria in the early part of the 8th cent. b.c.; and, on the hardly less precarious ground of 37:8 (“shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?”), it has been inferred that E was committed to writing at some time subsequent to the Disruption of the Kingdom.

Allusions in the early Hebrew Prophets to events recorded in the Pentateuch are exceedingly rare; and, when they occur, it is not easy to say whether they are based upon the written Narratives embodied in the Hebrew Bible, or upon similar, but not identical, oral tradition recording the same events: cf. Hos. 9:10; Am. 2:9; Mic. 6:4, 5. Take, for instance, the passage in Hos. 12:3, 4, “In the womb he [Jacob] took his brother by the heel … he had power over the angel and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him: he found him at Bethel, and there he spake with us … 12, Jacob fled into the field of Aram, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.” This shews close resemblances with 25:26, 27:43, 28, 29:20, 30, 31:41, 32:24–32. But there is nothing in the text of Genesis corresponding to “he wept and made supplication unto him.” The most that we are entitled to say is that the earlier prophets were acquainted with Narratives recorded by J and E, but, whether with the actual J and E documents incorporated in the Pentateuch, the evidence is insufficient to prove.

The literary style of J and E is of such perfection in its simplicity and vividness, that they clearly do not represent the beginnings, but rather the brightest and most finished specimens of Hebrew prose.

The religious thought both of J and E assumes the sole pre-eminence of the God of Israel. He is one Who reveals Himself in Haran, and Who protects the family of Abram in Egypt (12:1, 17). He protects Eliezer in his journey into Mesopotamia (chap. 24): He warns Laban on “the mountain of Gilead” (31:24): He prospers Joseph in everything in the land of Egypt (39:3, 5). The intercession of Abraham on behalf of Sodom (18:17–33) has been thought to reflect a somewhat later phase in the revision of the Patriarchal Narratives. But when Abraham appeals to Him as “judge of all the earth” (18:17), his monotheist sentiment is in full harmony with the general teaching of J and E.

There is no expression of hostility to the religion of the native Canaanite, or to the religion of Egypt and Philistia The closer relation with Shechemites is not opposed on the ground of religion (chap. 34): nor is the faith of Joseph an obstacle to his marriage with the daughter of the priest of On (41:45). Abraham, speaking of Gerar, is made to say, “Surely the fear of God is not in this place” (20:11). But God manifests Himself to Abimelech “in a dream of the night,” and Abimelech replies, “Lord, wilt thou slay even a righteous nation?” (20:3, 4 E).

Once more, it cannot be said that the allusions to Assyria and Babylon in 10:9–12 (J), 11:1–9 (J), 14:1ff. imply any recognition of the menace to Israel which the great powers of the Euphrates valley subsequently became. If the rivalry of the Canaanite has disappeared, the dread of Assyria has not yet become real.

Abraham builds altars at Shechem, Bethel (12:7, 8 J), Hebron (13:18 J and 15:9, 10 J (E)), and Moriah (?) (22:9 E). Jacob ets up a pillar at Bethel (28:18 E) and on the mountain of Gilead (31:45): he builds an altar at Bethel (35:3, 7 E) and at Beer-sheba (46:1 E). To the writer of the Priestly Code it seemed impossible that any sacrifices could have been offered before the Levitical Law was instituted, or were lawful except at the central sanctuary. But J and E represent the simpler traditions of the early monarchy. The erection of a pillar (maṣṣêbah), which is recorded of Jacob in 28:18, 31:13, 45, 35:14 (cf. 1 Sam. 7:12; 2 Sam. 18:18), is condemned as hateful to Jehovah in Deut. 16:22, cf. Mic. 5:13, in the later days of the monarchy.

The conclusion which has been reached by the most sober criticism of the Hexateuch is that the composition of J belongs probably to the ninth, and that of E to the early part of the eighth century b.c.

The P Narratives

The passages in Genesis generally assigned to P are as follows:

1:1–2:4a, 5:1–28, 30–32, 6:9–22, 7:6, 11, 13–16a, 18–21, 24, 8:1, 2a, 3b–5, 13a, 14–19, 9:1–17, 28, 29, 10:1–7, 20, 22, 23, 31, 32, 11:10–26, 27, 31, 32, 12:4b, 5, 13:6, 11b–12a, 16:1a, 3, 15, 16, 17, 19:29, 21:1b, 2b–5, 23, 25:7–11, 12–17, 19, 20, 26b, 26:34, 35, 27:46–28:9, 29:24, 29, 31:18b, 33:18a, 34 (partially), 35:9–13, 15, 22b–29, 36, 37:1, 2a, 41:46, 46:6–27, 47:5, 6a, 7–11, 27b, 28, 48:3–6, 7 (?), 49:1a, 28b–33, 50:12, 13.

These passages shew that they belong to a continuous and systematic summary of the Primaeval and Patriarchal Periods. The Narrative itself is, for the most part, slender and jejune, except in connexion with important events and institutions in the religion of Israel. In Genesis these are (1) the Creation and the Sabbath (1–2:4a), (2) the covenant of Noah (chap. 9), (3) the institution of circumcision (chap. 17), (4) the purchase of Machpelah (chap. 23).

The character of the contents and the style of the diction are so distinct that as a rule there is no difficulty in separating P from J and E throughout the Hexateuch. “Because of the precise assignment of dates and the systematic arrangement of material, this document practically forms a framework which binds together the component parts of the Hexateuch” (Chapman, p. 71). The main portion, which describes the legislation at Sinai (Ex. 25–Num. 10), is so largely occupied with Priestly functions, that the whole document is denoted by P, or PC, the Priestly Code.

Its contents are marked by orderliness of arrangement and by careful attention to chronology. Under the head of orderliness may be noted in Genesis (1) the sequence of the creative acts in the Six Days of Creation (chap. 1); (2) the arrangement of the genealogies in chap. 5, where three verses are assigned to each name, and in 11:10–26, where two verses are assigned to each name; (3) the details of the purchase of the cave of Machpelah in chap. 23: and (4) the genealogy of the sons of Jacob (35:23–26, 46:8–27).

Under the head of chronology, the system followed by P, however artificial, is methodical and continuous; we may note the mention of the day, month, and year of the Deluge (7:6, cf. 8:4, 5, 13, 14); the ages of the descendants of Seth (chap. 5) and of Shem (11:10–26); and the ages of the Patriarchs and their wives (12:4b, 16:16, 17:1, 24, 21:5, 23:1, 25:7, 17, 26, 26:34, 35:28, 37:2a, 41:46, 47:9, 28).

The narrative, as a rule, is little more than is sufficient to trace the chronology of Israel from the earliest times. “The history,” says Driver, “advances along a well-defined line, marked by a gradually diminishing length of human life, by the revelation of God under three distinct names, Elohim, El Shaddai, and Jehovah, by the blessing of Adam and its characteristic conditions, and by the subsequent covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Israel, each with its special ‘sign,’ the rainbow, the rite of circumcision, and the Sabbath (Gen. 9:12, 13, 17:11; Ex. 31:13).”

The Name of God which is regularly used by the Priestly Document until Ex. 6:2, is Elohim, not Jehovah. There are two exceptions in 17:1 and 21:1b, where it is possible that the Names have been altered in transcription. There are four passages in which God makes Himself known to the Patriarchs, or in which they speak of Him, as Êl Shaddai (17:1, 28:3, 35:11, 48:3). It is only after the account of the communication of the Name Jehovah to Moses and the people (Ex. 6:2ff.) that that Name is regularly used in the Priestly Document.

P ignores the distinction between clean and unclean animals in the Story of the Flood, and does not record the offering of sacrifices before the institution of the Levitical system. In Genesis the only religious usages referred to are (1) the Sabbath (2:1–4a), (2) the prohibition to eat blood (9:4, 5), (3) the rite of circumcision (chap. 17).

In style there is a frequent redundancy, e.g. 1:27 “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him”; 6:22 “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (cf. Ex. 40:16); 9:9 “And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you …; 11 And I will establish my covenant with you …; 12 This is the token of the covenant which I make …; 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth …; 16 And the bow shall be in the cloud …; 17 This is the token of the covenant which I have established.…”

There are also recurrent formulae which form a noticeable feature in the style, e.g. “These are the generations of, &c.” (see 2:4a, 5:1, 6:9, &c.), “These are the sons of … after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, in their nations” (10:20, 31), “And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael” (25:13), “And these are the names of the children of Israel” (46:8); cf. 25:16, 36:40.

A very large number of words and phrases peculiar to, or characteristic of P, have been collected (see the fifty “literary characteristics,” with references, in Driver’s L.O.T. (pp. 131–5)). As instances may be cited here the expressions for “to be gathered unto his people” (25:8, 17, 35:29, 49:29, cf. Num. 20:24): “make or establish a covenant” (6:18, 9:9, 17:2, cf. Ex. 6:4): “male and female,” zâkâr uneḳêbah (1:27, 5:2, 6:19, 7:3): “sojournings” (17:8, 28:4, 36:7, 47:9, cf. Ex. 6:4): “possession” (17:8, 23:4, 9, 20, 36:43, 47:11, 48:4, 49:30, 50:13): “be fruitful and multiply” (1:22, 28, 8:17, 9:1, 7, 17:20, 28:3, 35:11, 47:27, 48:4): “the selfsame day” (7:13, 17:23, 26, cf. Ex. 12:17).

“Israel” is not used by P as a name for Jacob. The Hittites are the b’nê Ḥêth (“children or sons of Heth”) in P (23:3, 5, 7, 10, 16, 25:10, 27:46), not “Ḥittîm” as in the other documents. Hebron appears as “Kiriath-Arba” (23:2, 35:27, cf. Jos. 15:13), Haran as “Paddan-aram” (25:20, 28:2, 5, 6, 7, 31:18, 33:18, 35:9, 26, 46:15), not Aram-naharaim (J).

The recurrence of the distinctive phraseology and style of P, together with the distinctive treatment of the subject-matter, both in the Pentateuch and in the Book of Joshua, enables the Hebrew reader without difficulty to identify the materials of this document.1

The Process of Compilation or Redaction (R)

Those who were responsible for the work of compiling the Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua, desired to give an account of the people of Israel from the earliest times down to the conquest of Canaan and the death of Joshua. The first portion extended from the creation of the world down to the death of Joseph in the land of Egypt. The materials employed for this part of the compilation were, in all probability, (1) the J and E collections of traditions, and (2) the Priestly Code (P).

The methods adopted in the process of compilation were very various. Six, at least, may be recognized: i.e. (1) Verbatim extracts, (2) Abridgment and omission, (3) Duplication of narratives, (4) Conflation and combination, (5) Harmonizing, (6) Glosses.

1. Sometimes long extracts were transferred almost verbatim, as in the case of the account of the Creation (1:1–2:4a), the Genealogy of the Sethites (chap. 5), the Covenant of Noah (9:1–17), the Covenant of Circumcision (chap. 17), the purchase of Machpelah (chap. 23), which are taken from P; and as in the case of the story of Eden (2:4b–4:26), the story of Abraham at Mamre and the fate of Sodom (chaps. 18, 19, except v. 28), the story of Abraham’s servant and Rebekah (chap. 24), the story of Tamar (chap. 38), which are taken from J.

2. Sometimes the account taken from one document is abridged, because a fuller narrative is preferred from another source. Thus the Cosmogony in J (2:4, 5) is fragmentary. The opening portion of it has evidently been omitted, because the previous section from P (1:1–2:4a) has been given the preference. The account of Abraham’s death in J, in or after chap. 24:1 ff., seems to have been omitted, because the account in P is to be inserted later on in chap. 25:7–11. Similarly the account, in J, of Isaac’s death which is imminent in the story of 27:41, is withheld, because of the insertion, in 35:28, 29, of P’s record of the event.

3. Sometimes parallel, but not necessarily identical, narratives are retained side by side. Thus J’s account of the formation of man and the animals, in chap. 2, follows immediately upon P’s story of Creation in chap. 1. In J’s account Rebekah persuades Jacob to flee to Haran in order to escape Esau’s after-wrath (chap. 27); but in P (28:1–9), Jacob departs with Isaac’s blessing in order to seek for a wife from Rebekah’s kindred. Again, in 48:3–7 we have P’s account of Jacob’s last words to Joseph, with special reference to Ephraim and Manasseh, which are immediately followed by the parallel account from JE (48:7–22) in which Israel (not Jacob) beholds Joseph’s sons and enquires who they are, and blesses them. The combination of duplicate narratives may be illustrated also by the twofold explanation of the names Issachar, Zebulon and Joseph (30:16–24).

4. Sometimes, when the narratives were identical in their main outlines, but differed in small details, the Compiler combined them, selecting first from one, and then from the other, the material most suitable for his purpose, and omitting or altering material that obviously was not harmonious. This is especially noticeable in the Deluge Narratives (chaps. 7, 8), the Table of the Nations (chap. 10), the story of Jacob at Haran (chaps. 30, 31), and the story of Joseph (chaps. 39–50).

5. Sometimes, in order to remove an appearance of discrepancy, and to secure continuity between passages, editorial changes were introduced. Thus, in view of the change of the forms Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah (related by P, in chap. 17), the names Abram and Sarai are used throughout the previous J, as well as P, portions of the narrative. The use of the double Name Lord God (Jehovah Elohim), in chaps. 2 and 3, is probably thus to be explained, as an addition by the compilers, in order to combine the Elohim of chap. 1. (P) with the first mention of Jehovah in the following section. In 39:1, the name of “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard” is inserted in order to harmonize the account in J, in which Joseph’s master is a nameless Egyptian, with that in E, in which Potiphar’s name is given (37:36).

6. Sometimes, explanatory notes or glosses, which may have come from a later hand, have been inserted into the text, as in 14:2, 3, 7, 8, 20:18, 31:47, 35:6, 19.

§ 5. Literary Materials

The very various materials embodied in JE and P in connexion with the main thread of personal narratives, relating to Adam, Noah, and the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, can be classified under at least six groups: (1) primitive folk-lore: (2) local traditions: (3) tribal traditions: (4) national traditions: (5) songs: (6) genealogies.

1. Primitive folk-lore. The early stories respecting the Creation, the beginnings of the Human Race, and the Deluge, are probably ultimately to be traced back to the common stock of primitive Semitic folk-lore. Whether the people of Israel received them (a) through Canaanite channels, or (b) directly from Babylonian influence, or (c) from their own Hebrew ancestors long previous to immigration into Palestine, is a question which at present we lack the means of answering. Babylonian thought and culture pervaded W. Asia in the second millennium b.c. But the points of resemblance between the Babylonian and the Israelite cosmogonies are neither so numerous nor so close as to make it necessary to infer that the Hebrew stories were borrowed immediately from the Babylonian. The Canaanites, among whom the Israelites settled, must have had their own version of a cosmogony. That this was coloured by Babylonian influence would be a reasonable conjecture. Again, the ancestors of the Hebrew race in the valley of the Euphrates had their own primitive Semitic traditions, and these would have been influenced by contact with Assyrian and Babylonian religion.

These stories were originally myths, that is, poetical tales in the imagery of which the primitive Semite found an explanation for the phenomena of nature, ascribing them to the action of supernatural beings. The myths were rooted in polytheism. The polytheistic element, in Genesis, has been entirely removed. The Biblical cosmogony gives us a representation of folk-lore, not in its early, crude and superstitious form, but as it was shaped and adapted to be the vehicle of religious thought, in accordance with the needs of a much later age, with the teaching of the Hebrew Prophets, and the monotheistic worship of Jehovah.

2. Local traditions. Many of the narratives in Genesis are associated with localities whose sanctity was traditionally connected by the Israelites with manifestations to the Patriarchs, e.g. Shechem (12:7), the oaks of Mamre (13:18), Beer-lahai-roi (16:14), Beer-sheba (26:23–25), Bethel (28:10–22), Mahanaim (32:1), Penuel (32:24–31). In some of these spots, stones, trees, and springs had been regarded from prehistoric times as tenanted by Divine beings. When the Israelites dispossessed the Canaanites, the sanctity of these places continued; and popular legend connected them with historic incidents in the lives of the Hebrew ancestors.

3. Tribal traditions. It can hardly be doubted that, under the guise of personal incidents, some of the Narratives of Genesis have preserved the recollection of events in the early history of Hebrew clans and tribes. One very possible example may be found in the story of Dinah and the treacherous revenge taken by Simeon and Levi (chap. 34). It is possible that Dinah impersonates a weak Israelite tribe or clan, which was in danger of being absorbed among the native Canaanite clans, and that this peril brought about the savage attack by the two brother tribes. It is almost certain that the story of Tamar (chap. 38) turns upon the tribal history of Judah; and that, while accounting for the disappearance of the Hebrew clans of Er and Onan, it represents, under the symbolism of marriage relations, the building up of the tribe of Judah through fusion with local Canaanite clans.

Once more, the blessing of Jacob, conferred upon Ephraim and Manasseh (chap. 48 E), is evidently intended to ratify the position of the two most prominent tribes in the Northern Kingdom; while the words of the Blessing of Jacob in chap. 49 reflect the history and geographical position of the tribes after the conquest of the land.

4. National traditions. What has been said about tribal history being impersonated in the Patriarchal Narratives, is clearly capable of extension to nations and peoples. The rivalry between Israel and Edom is prefigured in the antenatal struggle of Jacob and Esau (25:23). The delimitation of the frontiers between Israel and Syria may be symbolized in the covenant between Jacob and Laban (31:44). It is, at least, a possible interpretation of the repulsive legend in chap. 19, respecting the origin of Moab and Ammon, that Israelite prejudice expressed itself in a story based upon the popular etymology of the two names. In the stories of Hagar and Ishmael, the presentation of traits of the Bedouin type is clearly not excluded: and, under the similitude of family relationship, the connexion of the Israelite people with their neighbours, Aramaean, Edomite, and Arabian, is illustrated in numerous passages, e.g. chaps. 11, 22:20–24, 25:1–6, 12–16, 29, 36.

5. Songs. The Book of Genesis contains several poetical pieces. It is very probable that many of the prose narratives have been derived from earlier lyrical compositions, just as the Song of Deborah (Judg. 5) contained in poetry the record of a great national event which was afterwards related in prose (Judg. 4). Popular song has often preceded prosaic narrative. In the other books of the Pentateuch we are familiar with the Song of Moses (Ex. 15), the Songs of the Wars of the Lord and of the Well (Num. 21:14, 15, 17, 18), the Song of Triumph over the Defeat of Sihon (Num. 21:27–30), Balaam’s Oracles (Num. 23:7–10, 18–24, 24:3–9, 15–24), the Song of Moses (Deut. 32), and the Blessing of Moses (Deut. 33). In Genesis the following passages are genuine specimens of Hebrew poetry, and in style and language are quite distinct from the setting of prose narrative in which they are preserved:

(i)    The Song of Lamech (4:23, 24), on the invention of weapons.

(ii)    The Song of Lamech (5:29), on the introduction of vine culture.

(iii)    Noah’s Oracle on his Sons (9:25–27).

(iv)    The Oracle granted to Hagar (16:11, 12).

(v)    The Blessing on Rebekah, pronounced by her family (24:60).

(vi)    The Oracle granted to Rebekah respecting her children (25:23).

(vii)    The Blessing of Isaac upon Jacob (27:27–29).

(viii)    The Blessing of Isaac upon Esau (27:39, 40).

(ix)    The Blessing of Jacob upon his sons (49:2–27).

It may safely be assumed that these Songs were composed long before the time at which they were included in the J narrative of the Book of Genesis. The Blessing of Jacob seems to be a very early collection of Israelite Songs or poetical Oracles, having reference to the tribes after the settlement in Canaan (49:13, 14); and it is possible that the allusion to “the sceptre of Judah” may indicate a period at which the kingdom was established at Jerusalem (49:10).

6. Genealogies. At least eight Genealogies occur in the Book of Genesis. They constitute a remarkable feature in its literary composition. They illustrate the diligent care with which the attempt was made to trace back not only Israel, but Israel’s neighbours, into the remotest antiquity. The majority of the Genealogies belong to the statistics preserved in P.

The Priestly Document computes that the Exodus from Egypt occurred in the year 2666, and the Flood in the year 1656, after the Creation. It is in connexion with this chronology that the age of Noah, at the time of the Flood, is given with such minuteness (7:11); and that the ages of the Patriarchs are so carefully recorded. The narratives of J and E are not built upon this chronology, and in consequence their statements are often irreconcilable with those contained in the narrative of P.

(i) Genealogy from Adam to Noah (chap. 5 P). It has been thought possible that the original source for the contents of this list is to be sought for in a version of Babylonian Tradition. Berossus, the Babylonian Chronicler (circ. 200 b.c.) commences his Babylonian dynasties with Alōrus, Alaparus, Amēlon, Ammĕnon, Megalarus, Daōnus, Evedorachus, Amempsinus, Otiartes, and Xisuthros. There are ten names, and the list closes with Xisuthros, the Babylonian Noah. The list in Gen. 5 has ten names, and closes with that of Noah.

(ii) The Genealogy of the Sons of Noah (chaps. 10, 11, P (J)).

The Genealogy of the Nations is derived from J as well as from P. The lists of names are of great interest and value. They must not be regarded as possessing any scientific value ethnographically. But they illustrate the political geography of the Hebrews, and embody a reminiscence of Israelite tradition upon the relative position of peoples known by name and repute.

(iii) The Genealogy of Terah (11:27–32) contains fragments from J and P, and, probably, portions of J’s genealogy of Shem, resumed from 10:24–30. It has been thought to describe a tradition of early tribal relationships in the Terahite branch of the Hebrews, and to preserve the recollection of (a) the disappearance of the clan of Haran, (b) the survival of the clan of Lot, and (c) the amalgamation of the clan of Milcah with the native clans.

(iv) The Genealogy of Nahor (22:20–24) is an ancient list preserved in J. The twelve tribes here named traced their ancestry back to Nahor. Probably the list belongs to a late revision of J. For, while, in chap. 24, Abraham’s servant finds Nahor’s grandchildren, Laban and Rebekah, fully grown, in this 22nd chapter Abraham receives the news of the birth of Nahor’s children. The Genealogy contains an ethnographical record, not a personal history: and, accordingly, while the legitimate sons of Nahor (vv. 20–23) typify the true tribal stock, the sons of the concubine (v. 24) denote clans of mixed or inferior lineage.

(v) The Genealogy of Keturah (25:1–6) contains a list of North Arabian tribes with whom the Israelites acknowledged a degree of kinship. They were, therefore, represented as the children of Abraham by a later marriage, after the death of Sarah. As in the case of the Genealogy of Nahor, the Genealogy of Keturah probably belongs to a late insertion into J. For the main narrative of J leaves no room for the mention of a second marriage of Abraham. The beginning of chap. 24 suggests that Abraham is conscious of his approaching end.

(vi) The Genealogy of Ishmael (25:12–18) contains a list, from P, of the twelve traditional ancestors of the Ishmaelite tribes whose home was in the Syro-Arabian Desert.

(vii) The Edomite Genealogies (chap. 36) consist of (1) a list of the wives and children of Esau, vv. 1–5; (2) a list of Esau’s descendants, vv. 9–14; (3) a list of Esau clans, vv. 15–19; (4) a list of Horite clans, vv. 20–30; (5) a list of Edomite kings, vv. 31–39; (6) a second list of Esau clans, vv. 40–43. This very valuable genealogy seems to contain an authentic record of Edomite tribal history, presumably derived from some Edomite source.

(viii) The Genealogy of Jacob’s descendants (46:8–27 P) is a list which purports to contain the names of “the children of Israel, which came into Egypt, Jacob and his sons.” But as it includes the names of Er and Onan (v. 12) who died in Canaan, and also the names of Joseph and his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim (v. 20), who were already in Egypt when Jacob went down, the title of the list is evidently inexact.

§ 6. Historical Value

A. Gen. 1–11

The first portion of the Book of Genesis deals with the Origin of the Universe and the Beginnings of the Human Race. These Narratives, from a modern point of view, are unscientific. There is nothing in them of which modern astronomy, geology, or biology can take account. Physical Science and the Biblical Cosmogony, in their description of natural phenomena, belong to two wholly diverse phases of thought.

The Biblical Narrative, under the symbolism of primitive folk-lore, represents, as in a series of parables, fundamental religious ideas respecting the beginning of things. It is neither history nor science. In the attempt to answer the instinctive questionings of mankind, it lifts the mind Godward. The mysteries of the Universe and the riddles of sin, suffering, and death receive their interpretation through the medium of stories which have come down from the intellectual childhood of the Semitic peoples.

No historic records of primitive man can be looked for. Before the ages of civilization, for thousands, perhaps for hundreds of thousands, of years, man, with the spark of Divine life implanted in him, slowly fought his way out of the condition of the savage. The earliest traces of Assyrian or Egyptian civilization, between six and ten thousand years before the Christian era, belong to a comparatively recent stage in the growth and spread of the human race. Any historic reminiscence of the Beginning is inconceivable.

The Legend of the Flood finds an echo in the early traditions of peoples in all parts of the world. It is evident, however, that the Biblical Narrative of the Flood stands in close relationship to the Babylonian. The earliest Babylonian accounts are based upon ancient records written many centuries before the days of Moses. While geological science has demonstrated that a Flood has never simultaneously covered the whole surface of the globe, there is nothing improbable in the view that the Hebrew Narrative records a tradition of a vast and overwhelming Deluge in Mesopotamia, the memory of which is also contained in the inscriptions of Babylon.

The Israelite had no such conception as we possess of the physical laws of Nature. He was not interested, as we should say, in secondary causes. The science of the Israelite consisted in the recognition of the handiwork of the Creator. His knowledge of physical phenomena was knowledge of the Power and Presence of God. Accordingly, the Deluge, the earliest event of which a recollection is preserved in Babylonian and Hebrew legend, is related as a symbol of Divine judgement upon sin, and as a typical example of Divine deliverance: while the description of its physical characteristics follows the exaggerated account of popular tradition.

B. Gen. 12–50

When we turn to the Patriarchal Narratives, we pass into an entirely different atmosphere. Nevertheless, the Patriarchal Narratives are very different from those which describe the adventures of David or the rebellion of Absalom. We stand, as it were, on the threshold of the shrine of History. We have not yet passed through its doorway. A thousand years separate the age of David from that of Abraham.

It is evident that not all the contents of the Book of Genesis were intended to convey literal fact. Folk-lore is often expressed under the symbolism of personal relationship and domestic experiences. Many names, e.g. those of Midian, Aram, Amalek, are not those of individual personages, but of tribes and peoples. Stories which turn upon the popular etymology of proper names, e.g. Ishmael, Isaac, Issachar, cannot be regarded as on the same footing with the annals of history.

It is, however, otherwise with the great Patriarchs themselves. It is not too much to claim that the main personages who most vividly impressed themselves upon the popular recollection were actual historic characters. Their names, we may be sure, were not invented. That they are the names of real persons, and that round a nucleus of historic facts poetry and tradition collected and expanded popular legends, is the simplest and most probable explanation. The episodes with which these narratives are concerned are for the most part events and details of domestic life. There is a lack in them of contact with the larger history of the time. In consequence, in recent years, there has been a tendency to deny historic value to the Genesis story; and to account for the Patriarchs (a) either as impersonations of the people, (b) or as the survivals of the recollection of Canaanite deities, (c) or as astral emblems.

(a) It has been urged, for instance, that the departure of the Patriarch Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and from Haran, merely personifies a great migratory movement, and that the marriage of Jacob with Rachel and Leah symbolizes the reinforcement of the Hebrew stock from Aramaean tribes. In a certain number of instances this line of explanation will be found to throw an interesting additional light upon the narratives. But it does not admit of being generally applied. It fails to account for the main thread of personal incident. The intensely vivid portraiture of individual character looks as if it were drawn from the life, though viewed at a distance of time and through the haze of poetry and legend.

(b) The theory has been advanced that the names of the Patriarchs are the names of Canaanite deities, and that the Israelites passed from the stage of offering them worship to that of revering them as heroes and ancestors. It is quite possible that such names as Abram, or “lofty Father,” and Sarah, or “Princess,” were borne by Semitic deities. But this does not prove that the Israelites ever worshipped them, or that the names could not be borne by human beings. The fact that the names of Abiram, Abner, Samuel, and many other Israelites, were compounded with names of the Deity, and that “Isaac,” “Jacob,” “Joseph,” were very possibly shortened forms of “Isaac-el,” “Jacob-el,” “Joseph-el” (cf. Ishma-el, Jeraḥmeel, &c.), in no way precludes us from regarding them as the names of historical personages. The suggestion that the “Fear of Isaac” (31:42, 53) denotes the “fear inspired by Isaac,” i.e. the local deity of Beer-sheba, and not “the God whom Isaac the patriarch feared,” is an example of the very precarious arguments by which this view has been supported. There is practically no support from Genesis itself for regarding the Patriarchs as degenerated objects of Divine worship. When Abraham at Mamre receives the three angelic visitants (chap. 18) or when Jacob wrestles with the angel at Penuel (chap. 32), the early tradition depicts man in conscious communion with Deity. The tradition may contain more of symbolical instruction than of actual history. But it rests on the assumption that the Patriarchs were flesh and blood, and were neither Canaanite deities nor Hebrew demigods.

(c) Another line of interpretation, which looks for “astral motifs” in the Patriarchal Narratives, may be illustrated from the writings of the distinguished Assyriologist, Jeremias (Old Test. in the Light of the Ancient East, ii. pp. 19, 20, Eng. Tr.): “The number 318 in Gen. 14:14 … is the number of days in the lunar year when the moon is visible.” … ” ‘Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled’ (Gen. 14:4). This is distinctly a lunar number.” … “The moon is ‘the Wanderer.’ … Abraham moved from East to West like the moon.” … “Our Biblical story also recognizes the Tammuz-Ishtar motif. The journey of Abraham with his sister and wife (!) Sarah to Egypt is presented there as a journey into, and a rescue from the Underworld. As south, Egypt is the Underworld.… When Ishtar, the primeval Mother, descends into the Underworld all fertility ceases.… The chronicler hints this, Gen. 12:7: the house of Pharaoh was ‘plagued’ because of Sarah … sterility had come upon the women.” Speculations, upon lines like these, will be more likely to excite our surprise at the ingenuity of their originators, than to impress us with confidence in their judgement.

While upholding the historical character of the Patriarchs, we must not be too sanguine in the expectation that the historical elements in early legend can easily be demonstrated. This is far from being the case. Fact, poetry, and symbolism are often inextricably intertwined. Let us recognize the fact that it is not possible to claim a high standard of historical accuracy for a narrative, the date of whose composition is separated by many centuries from the events which it records, and whose statements have not as yet been verified by contemporary evidence. Even the written traditions of Israel were liable to be modified, in a strange degree, by subsequent generations, as is evident by a comparison of the Books of Chronicles with the Books of Kings, or, still more, of the Book of Jubilees with the Book of Genesis. Oral tradition, however high the standard of its accuracy in the Semitic world, was not likely to be less susceptible to the influences affecting the transmission of narrative than was tradition embodied in writing. But while we are prepared to hear it alleged that “the basis of our belief in the historical character, e.g. of Abraham, is somewhat sentimental,” statements to the effect that Abraham “seems to have been created to connect together the peoples kindred to Israel in a genealogical system of relationship” must be described as purely speculative. The framework of literary style and of religious thought, in which the portraits of the Patriarchs are presented to us, is derived from the prophetic period. But there is no evidence to shew that the prophets or their contemporaries either created the names of the patriarchs, or invented the traditions respecting them. That which they inherited from their forefathers they reproduced, stripped of crudity and archaism, and arrayed in the perfect style of their prose narrative. This they presented to their countrymen, glowing with the life of that Revelation which raised the teaching of the Hebrew Prophets immeasurably above the level of contemporary Semitic thought.

During the past forty years light has been shed by archaeological research upon the history of the world in the Patriarchal Period (2100–1400 b.c.). It has been shewn that the influence of Babylonian arms, culture, and worship had made itself felt throughout Western Asia as far as to the shores of the Mediterranean. It has been shewn that Egyptian kings exercised suzerainty over the provinces and cities of Canaan in the 15th century. It has been shewn that in the 15th and 14th centuries the peoples of Canaan, nominally subject to Egypt, were being hard pressed by the Hittites in the North and the Ḥabiri in the East. It has been shewn that the names of Jacob-el and Joseph-el occur among the names of places in Canaan conquered by Thothmes III, and recorded in his inscriptions on the Great Temple of Karnak; and that, in the time of Seti I, Aser appears as the name of a region subsequently occupied by the tribe of Asher. Whether the Ḥabiri, of the Tel el-Amarna Tablets, and the ‘Apuriu of the Egyptian inscriptions of Ramses II and his successors, should be identified with the Hebrews, is still much disputed.

It is not easy, in our present incipient stage of knowledge, to see precisely in what way some of these new historical data are reconcilable with the Biblical account. We may look forward with confidence to receiving further light from the monuments. In the meantime it is advisable to abstain from hasty judgements.

The only incident in the Patriarchal Narratives, which puts us into touch with the history of the surrounding nations, is the rebellion of the Cities of the Plain and the punitive invasion by the allied armies under Chedorlaomer (chap. 14). It is quite possible that in Amraphel king of Shinar we may recognize Ḥammurabi, the historic founder of the Babylonian Empire. On this assumption the period of Abraham is roughly that of the century 2200–2100 b.c. Abraham has not yet been identified in the Babylonian inscriptions. It has, indeed, been claimed by Egyptologists that in the list of places, which Shishak (circ. 930 b.c.) records he has conquered in Palestine, there is one (No. 71–72) which has the Semitic title ḥaḳal Abram, “field of Abram.” If this is substantiated, it may represent the earliest occurrence of the Patriarch’s name in writing, i.e. about twelve hundred years after his death (Breasted’s Hist. of Anc. Eg., p. 363).

Even Joseph’s name has not yet been found in the Egyptian monuments. There is no means of ascertaining, with any degree of confidence, under which king of Egypt Joseph rose to power. See Appendix E.

Accordingly, while future archaeological research may have many surprises in store for us, truth compels us to admit that up to the present no event recorded in the Patriarchal Narratives of Genesis has been found related in contemporary Monuments. Nor do the Patriarchal Narratives by themselves enable us to form any adequate impression of the political and social condition of Canaan and of its inhabitants during that period. Babylonian culture was predominant: Babylon and Egypt seem alternately to have ruled over Canaan: in the 16th and 15th centuries b.c. the chief towns of Canaan were held by Egyptian officials, and were paying tribute to the Egyptian kings. These are the historical features which archaeology has unexpectedly revealed, but of which, before recent archaeological discovery, no Biblical student could have had any conception from reading the Book of Genesis.

The fact seems to be that the historic traditions respecting the Hebrew Patriarchs, both as to language, social conditions, and religious thought, have come down to us in the garb, not of the period from which they first emanated, but of the period in which they were committed to writing. “The writers necessarily threw back their own modes of thought upon the earlier times of which they wrote.” It is this explanation, also, which fully accounts for the occurrence of such apparent anachronisms as the mention of “Philistines” and of “Dan” (= Laish), and the use of such phrases as “folly in Israel,” and “the land of the Hebrews” in the Patriarchal period (see above, p. xv).

Social customs in the East are little altered by the lapse of centuries. The scenes of Patriarchal life in Palestine and Syria may be witnessed every day by travellers of the 20th century a.d.

At the same time the student will do well very carefully to note the allusions to the semi-nomadic life of the Patriarchs. They were dwellers in tents, and their encampments were very often in the vicinity of wells and springs (12:8, 13:3, 18, 18:1, 2, 6, 9, 10, 24:67, 25:27, 26:25, 31:25, 33, 33:19). Abram and Lot possess cattle and sheep in great abundance (12:16, 13:2, 5). Isaac has great possessions “of flocks and herds” (26:14). Jacob is a skilled shepherd (chap. 30). He leaves Haran with flocks, herds, and camels (32:7). Jacob’s sons are shepherds (37:2, 12–16), and the pasture-lands of Goshen are assigned to them as such (46:34, 47:3). The regular Bedouin, roving on the frontiers of the desert, the warrior Ishmaels and Esaus, though of kindred origin, are different in character and pursuits (21:20, 33:12–16).

On the other hand, Isaac grows corn in the land of the “Philistines” (26:12–14); Jacob receives from his father the blessing of a fruitful soil, with plenty of corn and wine (27:28); he has corn-fields in Haran (30:14); and Joseph’s dreams suggest a bringing-up in corn-growing land (37:5, 6). In the Blessing of Judah the luxuriant growth of the vine is the pride of the tribe (49:11). The mention of “houses” in connexion with the Patriarchs indicates how easily the narrative passes into the use of the terms belonging to a more settled condition of life (15:3, 24:23, 27:15, 28:21, 33:17, 38:11).

§ 7. Religious Teaching

The Book of Genesis, like the rest of the Pentateuch to which it forms the Introduction, is primarily a book of religious instruction (Tôrah). It traces back, to the earliest imaginable time, the relations of the People of Israel to their God. For this purpose the Narratives were collected, and to this purpose they were adapted. The main religious idea is this; that the God who made the Universe, created mankind, brought the Flood upon the world, and appointed the distribution of the Human Races, was the God of Israel, who in the remote ages called, chose, protected, and guided the ancestors of the Hebrew People.

“Creation” and “Election” are the aspects under which, in the Book of Genesis, the devout Israelite was taught the two primary lessons of his relation to God. In answer to the question “What am I?” he learned (1) that he was a member of the Human Race Created by the One God, and (2) that he was a member of the Family of Abraham Chosen by the One God.

The Narratives are recorded in language which never deviates from the pure monotheism of the Israelite prophets, (a) They have no taint of the idolatry of Canaan or of Egypt, (b) They carry with them no trace of the struggle with Baal worship. (c) They suggest no claim on the part of any God except Jehovah to be supreme in the world. The people of the land as impersonated in Melchizedek (chap. 14), Abimelech (chap. 20), Pharaoh and Joseph’s steward (chaps. 41:38, 39, 43:23), are not wanting in the fear of the true God.

The supreme value of the Book of Genesis has always consisted in its religious message. Its influence has not resulted from perfection of scientific or historical accuracy, but from its power of presenting, through the medium of the people’s traditions and folk-lore, the essential truths of the Revelation of the God of Israel. Like every other human medium, it was adapted to the age of its production. It was neither infallible nor perfect. But it was part of that inspired witness by which throughout the ages the Spirit of God has spoken to the spiritual nature of man with a voice adapted to his understanding. In every phase of Christian experience the Book of Genesis has been recognized as having borne a prominent part in the “Praeparatio Evangelica.” The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the One Supreme Divine Person, omnipotent in power, perfect in righteousness, infinite in wisdom. Whether in Canaan, in Egypt, or in Haran, His Will is sovereign and absolute. To the Canaanite King, Melchizedek, He is the Most High God (Êl Elyon): to the Hebrew Patriarchs, He is God Almighty (Êl Shaddai).

God, who “hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son,” “of old time spoke unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners (πολυμέρως καὶ πολυτρόπως)” (Heb. 1:1). The Book of Genesis is one of those “divers manners.” They were truly “prophets” to whom we owe it. They were inspired men, moved by the Holy Ghost (a) to collect, purge, and edit the primitive traditions of the race and the early legends of the people, and (b) thereby to interpret to their countrymen and to the world “divers” fragments and “portions” of the message of Divine Redemption. Human judgement stumbles at the thought that the first of the sacred writings of Israel to be set apart as “the oracles of God” should contain the initial stages of a national literature, i.e. legends and folk-lore. Our preconceptions make us slow to realize the meaning of the progressive character of Divine Revelation. Where law and prophecy, poetry and narrative have their share, legend and tradition are not wanting to complete the human element in the preparation for the coming of the Christ.

(1) God. In some of the Narratives preserved by the earlier traditions there are traces of the earlier and more anthropomorphic conception of the Almighty. Jehovah speaks as if Apprehensive of the human race becoming too powerful (3:22, 11:6); as if regretting the act of creation (6:6, 7); as if needing to be convinced of human wickedness (11:7), or of the corruptions of Sodom (18:20, 21). But these survivals of a more naїve treatment of the Divine Nature are only evidence of the fact that there has been growth and development in the religious thought of Israel.

The mention of the teraphim of Laban (31:19, 30–35) and of “the strange gods” in Jacob’s household (35:1–4) acknowledges rather than condemns the usage of other peoples.

The God of Israel is the beneficent Creator of the Universe: His Word and Will are the only means by which created things are brought into existence (chaps. 1, 2). Their creation is in accordance with His moral purpose of goodness (1:31). Mattes is neither self-existent, nor inherently evil; what God creates, is “very good.” From the first He maintains communion and intercourse with mankind. At every stage He communicates His Will to man, to Adam and Eve, to Cain, to Noah, to the Patriarchs, to Hagar, to Rebekah, to Pharaoh, &c. He hears their prayer (4:15, 15:1–6, 25:22, 23, 32:29, 46:1–4). He makes covenants with them (9:1–17, 15:18, 17:2 ff.) He overrules the wrong-doings and troubles of life to be the means of blessing (3:16, 17, 45:5, 50:20).

(2) Man. Man is made in the image of God (1:27). His nature is twofold, partly material, partly spiritual (2:7). His life is designed for activity; he is the crowning point of creation he is intended to exercise authority and to maintain order and control upon earth (1:28, 29, 2:15, 20). From the first he approaches God with sacrifice (4:3–5) and prayer (4:26).

(3) Sin. The Nature, not the Origin, of Sin is depicted in chap. 3. Temptation to sin comes from an external source (3:1–5). It is not in man, nor from God. It exalts personal desire against the knowledge of the Divine Will: it shews itself in distrust and self-will. Conscience is active in the wake of sin (chaps. 3, 4, 42).

There is no direct assertion of the hereditary transmission of sin. Perhaps it is implied in the fact that the story of the murder of Abel follows at once upon that of the expulsion from the Garden. The rapid spread of moral corruption occasions the Divine judgement of the Deluge (chaps. 6–9), and in the overthrow of the Cities of the Plain (chap. 19). There is no such thing as human immunity from sin. Even Abraham, the father of the faithful, is guilty of turpitude and cowardice (12:11–13, 20:12). The character of Jacob is a medley of warm feeling, persevering energy, deceitfulness, and self-interestedness. Even in Joseph, before the discipline of suffering, there is a strain of vain-glory (37:5–12).

(4) Election. The Call of Abraham is represented as the free expression of Divine Favour and Grace. It is not the reward of merit, nor the recognition of service. The human aspect is ignored. God’s Voice is the test of obedience and of faith. Abraham’s belief in Jehovah (15:6) precedes the covenant. He represents the ideal of righteousness, i.e. right relations with God (cf. Rom. 4:9; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23). The command comes from God to Abraham to leave his home; and the promise is added of a blessing in the distant future. The promise has reference (1) to numberless descendants, (2) to the possession of Canaan, (3) to a source of benediction for all the dwellers on the earth (12:2, 3, 17:6–8, 18:18, 28:13, 14, 35:9–12). As interpreted in the Book of Genesis, Election implies no selfish enjoyment of prerogative, but a vocation to discipline, patience, and service. Its origin is God’s call; its sphere is the service of man; its ratification is the covenant relation; the rite of circumcision is its sacrament; its reward is the revelation of the Divine Will. The Election of the individual leads up to the Election of the Nation, out of whose ranks and from whose country shall come the ultimate Blessing for all the families of the earth. The material blessings of long life, numerous descendants, and a fertile land, are the appointed symbols and pledges of the spiritual fulfilment of the Divine promise, to which our Lord refers in the words, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad” (Joh. 8:56). the Hebrew mind may have been deficient in speculative and philosophical ability. But it was intensely sensitive of religious impressions; and, while rejecting all external representations of the Deity, could rest with quiet confidence in the absolute Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of His Personality (cf. 15:6, 18:25, 35:3, 48:15).

(5) The Messianic Hope. The Divine Promises, in the Book of Genesis, cannot be said to indicate a belief in the coming of a personal Messiah. In Gen. 3:15, the enmity between the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman symbolizes the antagonism between the human race and the forces of Evil. The passage predicts, that victory over the source of transgression will rest with man. It contains in germ the Gospel of Redemption for humanity. It is universal, not national, in its range of application. But it contains no announcement of a personal Redeemer.

The much controverted words, “Until Shiloh come” (49:10), have very frequently been understood to predict the advent of a personal Messiah. But it is very improbable that “Shilol” can bear the meaning of a proper name. Probably nothing more definitely Messianic is indicated than that the most sacred hopes of Israel were bound up with the future of the royal tribe of Judah. The promises made to Abraham and to Jacob included the kingship of their descendants (17:5, 6, 35:11); and the poetical prediction concerning “the sceptre of Judah” points forward, with the indefiniteness of an ancient oracle, to the expectation of an ideal, a Messianic, kingdom.

(6) Love. But, although the Book of Genesis contains but little that belongs to definitely Messianic predictions, its whole idea of the Divine Nature and of its relation towards mankind, whether expressed in Creation, or in Election, or in Discipline, is the same. It is that of love. Love first originates the object of benevolence; and then, by gradual and progressive revelation, seeks to raise, educate, and enlighten it, until the full communion between God and man can be established.

The assurance of the Divine Presence (“I am with thee,” 26:24, 28:15, 31:3; cf. 5:24, 6:9, 39:2, 21, 48:15 is at every epoch conveyed to the servants of Jehovah.

“In the early stages of Bible history there was not a direct, immediate and adequate revelation of the true God, but an indirect and educational revelation of God, which was to the knowledge of God Himself as the shadow of blessings to come … is to the glorious light of Christ.”

No account of the Book of Genesis would be adequate which omitted to notice the religious and moral teaching of its narratives. The great succession of scenes which pass before the reader’s eyes is unrivalled in any literature for simplicity, vividness, moral force, and adaptability for purposes of instruction. Except the Parables of the Gospels, probably no stories have been so universally used as material for sacred lessons. When the Apostle speaks of the Scriptures being “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16), his words are in a peculiar degree applicable to Genesis. Unless it be the Psalter, there is no book of the O.T. which has so deeply influenced the Christian consciousness as the Book of Genesis. It deals with the simplest and the profoundest thoughts in terms of everyday life. A child can grasp the outline of the story: the profoundest theologian is continually finding in it fresh depths of unexpected meaning.

It has ceased to be regarded, as once was the case, in the light of a text-book of secular science. It is more and more regarded as a treasury of religious truth. The stories of Adam and Eve, of Cain and Abel, of the Flood, of Abraham, of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Lot’s Wife, of Jacob, were used by our Lord as parables, already known to His hearers, for the purpose of enforcing His instruction (Matt. 19:4, 5, 23:35, 24:37; Luke 17:29, 32; John 1:51, 8:56). St Paul continually employs the Genesis narratives as illustrations in theological argument. Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac, are to him impersonations of religious ideas (cf. Rom. 4:3–18, 9:7–13; Gal. 4:22–30).

The Story of Paradise and the Story of Cain and Abel are passages in which nearly every verse is full of religious significance. The Flood Narrative which emphasizes the Divine hatred of sin and the purpose of salvation, prepares the way for the call of Man and the Chosen Family; while the Genealogy of the Races reminds us that the unknown peoples and dark ages of the world are included within the range of the Divine plan of Redemption.

In the Narratives of the Patriarchs the delineation of character is extraordinarily varied and lifelike. We are conscious that the view, e.g. of Ewald who regarded the Patriarchs as emblems or impersonations of the people, utterly fails to satisfy. Though they may not as yet be identified in the Monuments of antiquity, we feel that they have stepped straight out of the heart of the religious experience of the people.

We see in Abraham the type of unquestioning trust and obedience. He leaves all at the Divine call. His strong faith is put to the test by long waiting for the fulfilment of the Promise; and it is put to a yet more supreme test by a command which seems to revoke the Promises previously given (chap. 22). His character is depicted as magnanimous (chaps. 13, 14), hospitable (18:1–8), courteous (chap. 23). He is the wise and thoughtful head of a great household (18:19). He is not free from human weakness, he yields to ignoble cowardice (12:14–20, 20:1–18); and yet he is admitted into terms of closest communion with Jehovah (18:23–33). Isaac, the man of meek and yielding temperament, of obscure, retiring, perhaps self-indulgent habits, is none the less included in the privileges of personal relation with the God who reveals His will. Jacob, warm-hearted, calculating, self-seeking, persevering, is the type of character in which good and evil are strangely blended. In the turning-points of his life, he realizes (1) that there is communion between earth and heaven, (2) that, in spite of what he is, Jehovah has even sought him out and is ready to grant the Divine blessing on one who perseveres to sue for it. Joseph, high-minded, capable, faithful to his God in the hour of temptation, strong in family affection, ready to forgive, presents a noble type of virtue in high position. How lifelike also are the touches in the representation of the secondary characters! the jealousy of Sarah; the selfishness of Lot; the meanness of Laban; the generous, but shallow, impulsiveness of Esau. We see Rebekah as she hastens to give drink to the camels of Abraham’s servant, and hurriedly plots to secure the blessing for her favourite son. We see Joseph’s brethren now scheming for his death in the field of Dothan, and now conscience-stricken and bewildered in the house of the Egyptian lord.

§ 8. Moral Difficulties

The Moral Difficulties which have been felt by readers of the Book of Genesis may be grouped under three heads.

(i) A rudimentary moral standard of life is presented in the Patriarchal Narratives. For instance, the substitution of Hagar for Sarah (chap. 16), the expulsion of Hagar (chap. 21), and the marriage of Jacob with two sisters (chap. 29), are incidents which, though they shock and offend our notions of morality, were in harmony with the ethical standard of early Israelite society. It is terrible to our ideas that Abraham should be ready to sacrifice his son (chap. 22), and that Reuben should offer his two sons as hostages to be slain (42:37). But, according to the usages of ancient Semitic life, individual rights were entirely subordinated to those of “corporate responsibility.” Scripture enables us to recognize the law of growth in moral life. If so, we must be prepared to meet with its earlier as well as with its later stages. We must not expect from the picture which is given us of the Hebrew Patriarchs in Canaan the standard of morality represented in the Sermon upon the Mount.

(ii) The moral failures of the Patriarchs are recorded without any expression of censure. The repudiation of Sarah by Abraham at the courts of Pharaoh and of Abimelech (chaps. 12, 20), and of Rebekah by Isaac at the court of Abimelech (chap. 26); the drunkenness and incest of Lot (chap. 19:30–38); the acts of deception practised by Jacob in order to obtain his father’s blessing (chap. 27), are episodes in which it is impossible to palliate or excuse the behaviour of the Patriarchs. And yet, it is objected, there is no word of disapproval on the part of the narrator. Is it, however, necessary that the moral should always be told at full length? The incidents tell their own story. Their narration is their condemnation. They illustrate the moral failures of the representative historic personages of primitive Israel. There is no claim of moral perfection made for them; there is nothing of the hero or demigod in their conduct. Abraham and Isaac are rebuked by heathen princes (20:9, 26:10). Racial antipathy may be reflected in the story of the shameful origin of Moab and Ammon, but Jacob’s deception is punished by twenty years’ exile from his home, by the wiles of Laban, and by the treacherous conduct of his own children. In the millennium before Christ, deception and craftiness may conceivably have seemed to Orientals more humorous and less repellent than they do to us. But conscience always and unhesitatingly condemns such forms of evil. There is no room for the sophistry that, because the Patriarchs were the chosen servants of God, their bad actions have been condoned. Holy Scripture records without comment the sins of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of King David, and of St Peter. The mere statement of moral lapse is enough: censure may be less eloquent than silence.

(iii) The representation of the Divine attributes sometimes tallies rather with the crude conceptions of paganism than with enlightened ideas of the God of Holiness. Allowance must be made for the progressive character of the Revelation granted to Israel. (a) The destruction of the world’s inhabitants by the Deluge is described as a moral judgement for sin and wickedness. The emphasis rests upon the sternness of the visitation. But the picture which it gives of the extermination of the human race rests on a primitive idea of the Deity, without mercy for the ignorant and without consideration for the innocent and the weak. (b) The Narratives of the Deluge and of the Tower of Babel preserve some features of the fierceness and wrath, which in the Old Testament belong to the earlier conceptions of the God of Israel. Similarly, God is represented as threatening Abimelech and all his people with death, because in ignorance and entire innocency of intention he has taken Abraham’s wife (20:7). The purpose of the story is to emphasize the Divine favour which protected the Chosen Family from peril. But the words which threaten Abimelech reflect a “particularism” against which conscience protests. (c) When, however, in chap. 22:2, God is said to command Abraham to offer Isaac for a burnt offering, the difficulty is not simply to be met by admitting, that in early days the Israelites could think of their God as one who impersonated their own fierceness. The story presupposes a recognition of the practice of human sacrifice. The utterance of God symbolizes the impulse of conscience, stirring the religious feelings in Abraham. Could he make the same supreme sacrifice which the Canaanite peoples were willing to make to their gods? Could he trust a God who seemed to repudiate His own promise? This was the final test of the Patriarch’s faith. The word of God, conveying so terrible a command, reflects indeed the moral standard of a time at which such sacrifices were thought compatible with true devotion. But the God of the Hebrews, who “proved” Abraham by the voice of conscience, no less definitively forbade the inhumanity of such offerings. He who was continually raising His people to a higher moral level, taught them “little by little” that God is love.

§ 9. The Names of God in the Book of Genesis

The subject of the Divine Names as used in the Old Testament has been discussed in recent years by some of our ablest scholars. Students should consult Dr Driver’s Excursus I (pp. 402–409) in his Commentary on The Book of Genesis, and his valuable note on Ex. 3:14 (p. 40, Cambridge Bible for Schools); Prof. A. B. Davidson’s Theology of the O.T. (1904), pp. 46, 54–58; Principal Skinner’s discussion of the subject in “Genesis” (Internat. Crit. Comm.), pp. xxxv–xxxviii, and in his remarkable series of articles in the Expositor, April–Sept. 1913. There are also important articles in the chief Dictionaries, e.g. by Kautzsch, Encycl. Bibl., s.v. “Names” (§§ 109–113), Kittel in the Realencyklopädie3, s.v. “Elohim” and “Jahve,” Davidson in D.B. ii. 199.

(i) Elohim (אֱלֹהִים) is the ordinary and regular Hebrew name for “God.” Its origin and etymology are obscure. In its form it is a plural word, and yet, with only a few exceptions, it is used with verbs and adjectives in the singular. This usage is to be explained not as a relic of polytheism, but as an instance of the “plural of excellence” or “majesty” (Gesenius, Heb. Gram. § 124, g, E.T.), as in the case of adonim in Gen. 42:30, “the lord of the land.” It must not be supposed that Elohim is always used of the God of Israel. It is used generically for “God”; and, moreover, is often found in the plural to denote the “gods” of the heathen. It may be assumed to be akin to Êl, another Hebrew word for “God”; and is evidently closely related the Canaanitish El, the Assyrian Ilu, and the Arabian Ilâh. The conjecture that it denotes “strength” and “protecting power” is very probable, but cannot be regarded as certain.

In the Book of Genesis Elohim is used by itself for “God” 177 times. With a few exceptions, it is used by both E and P throughout Genesis and in the Exodus Narrative up to the passage in which the distinctive name “Jahweh” is revealed to Moses (Ex. 3:13 ff. E: Ex. 6:2 ff. J).

(ii) Jahweh (or Yahveh), “the Lord,” is the distinctive name of the God of the Israelites. It is quite possible that its original pronunciation and etymology have been lost. While some have suggested that it is the causative form of the verb meaning “to fall,” and thus denotes “the feller” or “destroyer,” others regard it as the causative of the verb meaning “to become,” and hence understand it to mean “the creator.” But we know that Hebrew proper names may originally have had a different pronunciation from that which popular etymology has made familiar. The origin of the name may, therefore, be irrecoverable. We have, however, the popular explanation which is preserved to us in the Book of Exodus, where God, revealing Himself to Moses, says in the first person “I will be that I will be” (‘Ehyeh ‘ǎsher ehyeh). The meaning of the Name, expressed, as proper names so frequently were, by the 3rd pers. sing, of the Imperfect tense (Heb.) of a verb (e.g. Isaac, Ishmael, Jerahmeel), would be “He will be.” The rendering of the Eng. vers. “I am that I am,” fails to give the full sense of the verb, and suggests an idea of abstract metaphysical existence which is foreign to Hebrew thought. “He will be” expresses the promise of a permanent relation with the Israelite people: it implies the presence and protection, the loving care and Divine guidance, which they will receive from Him who made Himself known to them.

The pronunciation “Jehovah” is unquestionably wrong. It is attributed to Petrus Galatinus, confessor of Leo X, in 1518. It unites the vowels of the word meaning “Lord,” adonai (אֲדֹנָי), with the consonants of the Sacred Name, the Tetragrammaton JHVH (יהוה). And although, in consequence of four centuries of Christian use, the name “Jehovah” enjoys a peculiar sanctity, it is etymologically a “mongrel word.” There is no doubt, of course, that the Jews, owing to a superstitious dread of pronouncing the Sacred Name, had given to it the vowels of “Adonai” at the time when the vowel points were introduced into the Hebrew MSS. (7th–9th cent. a.d.). Accordingly, in public reading, “Yahveh,” as we may pronounce it, was pronounced “Adonai,” and translated by the LXX as κύριος. But traces of the original pronunciation survive in proper names, and in Greek it is found transliterated as ἰαβέ and ἰαῶ.

According to P and E, the Name was not known until it was revealed to Moses. But in J it is used in Genesis from the very first. In the Paradise section (2:4b–3:24) we find Jahweh Elohim, an unusual combination due probably to the editorial insertion of Elohim, in order to preserve the continuity with the previous section (1:1–2:4a) in which “Elohim” alone is used. But after chap. 3 “Jahweh” is regularly used by J: and in 4:26 it is expressly said, “Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord (Jahweh).” Evidently in the J Narratives, it was assumed that “Jahweh” was from the first the Proper Name of God.

It is, however, important to realize that Jahweh and Elohim are not synonymous. “Jahweh is Elohim in relation to Israel.” Just as Chemosh was God in Ammon, so Jahweh was God in Israel: and it is probable that a long interval elapsed, before the Israelites realized the truth that not only was Jahweh the God of Israel, but that the God of Israel alone was the God, ha-Elohim. The Monotheism of the Jew represents the growth of centuries. It was preceded by the period of monolatry, when the Israelite recognized the existence of many “gods” (elohim), but worshipped only One, the Elohim of Israel, whose appellation was Jahweh.

In recent years it has been contended that Jahweh was the name of a deity which is to be found in certain Babylonian compound proper names, e.g. Ja-a-ve-ilu. It is possible that Jahu may have been the name of a West Semitic deity. But in the O.T. its earliest occurrence is in the proper names Jochebed, the mother of Moses (Ex. 6:20), and Joshua, his successor.

(iii) Êl (אֵל) is another generic name for “God” in Hebrew. It appears in most of the other Semitic languages, e.g. Babylonian, Phoenician, Aramaic and Arabic. Its origin and etymology are lost in obscurity. How it is connected with Elohim (sing. Eloah) is a doubtful point. Some scholars have derived it from roots denoting “strength” or “leadership”: but all such derivations are conjectural. It is found in the Book of Genesis on a few occasions by itself, e.g. 16:13, 28:3, 31:13, 33:20, 35:1, 3, 7, 49:25. But it is also frequently found in conjunction with some descriptive epithet or substantive. (1) Êl Elyon, “the most high God,” may have been an ancient Canaanite name for the Deity (14:18). The Phoenicians had a god Ἐλιοῦν καλούμενος Ὕψιστος (Euseb. Praep. Ev. i. 10, 11, 12), cf. Ps. 78:35 (2) Êl Shaddai (see below). (3) Êl ‘Olam, “the God of everlasting” (21:43). (4) Êl R°i, “the God of seeing” (16:13). (5) Êl Beth-el, “the God of Bethel” (31:13, 35:7).

(iv) Shaddai (שַׁדַּי). This name for “God” is generally found combined with Êl; but in poetry it is found alone. It occurs in Genesis 17:1 (“I am Êl Shaddai” addressed to Abraham), 35:11 (“I am Êl Shaddai,” addressed to Jacob), 28:3 and 48:3 (Êl Shaddai, spoken of by Isaac and Jacob): see also 49:25. According to P, while Elohim was the name of God regularly employed, Êl Shaddai was the Name revealed to the Patriarchs and used by them (see Exod. 6:2).

The name is obscure in origin and meaning. It is rendered “Almighty”; and the conjectural derivations, from words denoting “wasting” and “mountain,” are most precarious. In the LXX it is rendered θεός, κύριος, and παντοκράτωρ. It appears in compound names in Num. 1:6, 12 “Zuri-shaddai” = “Shaddai is my rock,” and “Ammi-shaddai” = “Shaddai is my kinsman.” It is probable that Shaddai is an ancient Divine appellative meaning “omnipotence,” which was traditionally associated with the early revelation granted to the Hebrew ancestors. It is very noticeable that in the poetical book of Job the name “Shaddai” occurs no less than 41 times. See also Num. 24:4, 16; Ruth 1:20, 21; Ps. 68:14, 91:1; Isai. 13:6; Ez. 1:24; Joel 1:15.

On other titles (“the Fear of Isaac,” “the Mighty One of Jacob,” and “the Stone of Israel”), see notes on 31:42, 53; 49:24.



Chap. 1:1, 2, 3, 42, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 102, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 212, 22, 24, 252, 26, 272, 282, 29, 31




Chap. 2:2, 32

J (E)

Chap. 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22


Chap. 3:1, 3, 52

J (E)

Chap. 1 82, 9, 13, 14, 21, 22, 23


Chap. 4:25 5:12, 22, 242


Chap. 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 13, 152, 16 26 29


Chap. 6:2, 4 9, 11, 12, 13, 22 9, 16, 8:12, 15


Chap. 3 5, 6, 7, 8 7:1 16 20, 212


Chap. 9:1, 6, 8, 12, 16, 17 27


Chap. 26 10:92, 11:5, 6, 8, 92, 12:1, 4, 72, 82, 17


Chap. 13


Chap. 4, 102, 13, 14, 18 22, 15:1, 2 (‘Adônai J.), 4, 6, 7, 8 (Adônai J.), 18

Êl Elyon

Chap. 14:18, 19, 20, 22


Chap. 16 3, 7, 8, 9, 15, 18, 19, 22, 23


Chap. 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 112, 13, 17:1 18:1, 13, 14, 17, 192


Chap. 13

Êl Sh.

Chap. 1


Chap. 18 (cont.) 292, 20:3, 6, 11, 13, 172


Chap. 20, 22, 26, 33, 19:132, 14, 16, 242, 27 18


Chap. 21:2, 4, 6, 12, 173, 19, 20, 22, 23 22:1, 3, 8, 9 12 23:6


Chap. 12 33 11 142, 15, 16

Êl ‘Olam

Chap. 33


Chap. 11


Chap. 24:1, 3, 7, 12, 21, 26, 272, 31, 35, 40, 42, 44, 482, 50, 51, 52, 56, 25:212, 22, 23


Chap. 28 (ha-E), 28:4, 12, 17, 20, 22


Chap. 26:2, 12, 22, 24, 25, 28, 29, 27:7, 20, 27 132, 16 21


Chap. 19

Êl Sh.

Chap. 3


Chap. 30:2, 6, 8, 17, 18, 20, 222, 23


Chap. 29:31, 32, 33, 35 24, 27, 30


Chap. 31:7, 9, 11 (ha-E), 162, 24, 42 50, 32:1, 2 28, 30


Chap. 3 49 9


Chap. 13


Chap. 33:5, 10, 11 35:1, 5, 7, 7 (ha-E), 9, 10, 11, 13, 15


Chap. 38:72, 10


Chap. 20 1, 3, 7

Êl Sh.

Chap. 11


Chap. 9 40:8, 41:16, 25 (ha-E), 28 (ha-E), 322 (ha-E), 38, 39, 51, 52


Chap. 39:2, 32, 52, 21, 232


Chap. 42:18 (ha-E), 28, 43:29, 44:16 (ha-E), 45:5, 7, 8 (ha-E), 9



Êl Sh.

Chap. 14


Chap. 46:2, 3, 48:9, 11, 152 (ha-E), 20, 21


Chap. 49:18

Êl Sh.

Chap. 3 25


Chap. 25


Chap. 50:19, 20, 24, 25



In this Table, E = Elohim = God, J (E) = Jahweh Elohim = the Lord God, J = Jahweh = the Lord, Êl Sh. = Êl Shaddai = God Almighty. Elohim is only recorded in cases where it is used absolutely, i.e. as a Proper Name. In cases where it is used generically, or in the construct state, e.g. “my God,” or “the God of Abraham,” i.e. not as a Proper Name, Elohim is not recorded in the above Table. The references are to the English Bible (not the Hebrew).

(In Gen. 6:5, “God” in the A.V. is a mistake for “Lord” (Jahweh); in 20:4, “Lord” in some reprints of the A.V. is a mistake for “Lord” (Adônai); in 18:27, 30, 31, 32, “Lord” is ‘Adônai; in 30:8, “mighty wrestlings” is in Heb. “wrestlings of God”; in 44:7, 17, where the English rendering is “God forbid,” there is no Name of God in the Hebrew.)

The renderings of the Hebrew by the LXX shew as we might have expected, that in a translation the tendency to substitute one Sacred Name for another is very strong, and that a Greek scribe prefers the usual Greek word for “God,” ὁ θεός, to the Hebraic title κύριος. The suggestion that the Hebrew text is so corrupt that no reliance can be placed upon its use of the Divine Names, and that, therefore, the Documentary analysis of the Pentateuch falls to the ground, can only be ascribed to an entire misapprehension of Pentateuchal Criticism. It is a mistake to suppose that “the employment of various designations for God” is regarded by critics as “sufficient evidence for the assumption that different documents were employed in the compilation of the Pentateuch.” Pentateuchal Criticism is based, not on a single point of evidence, but on a wide range of inductive reasoning, dealing with (1) the evidence of words and phrases, (2) the literary evidence of style, selection, and treatment of material, (3) the historical evidence supplied by the allusions to different stages in the growth of Israelite religion and worship. The distinctness of origin of (a) JE, (b) D, and (c) P may be treated as having been finally established as the result, not of a single brilliant guess, but of a long, minute, and scientific process of literary criticism. It is true that the first clue to the Documentary analysis of the Pentateuch was supplied by the observation of the manner in which the Hebrew Names of God were distributed throughout Genesis. But it was soon realized that there were numerous other characteristic differences between the component Documents. “If P had used Yahweh in Genesis, as he does after Ex. 6:2, the grounds for the separation of P from JE would have been substantially not less strong than they are now.… In view of the smaller number of criteria distinguishing J and E the varying use of the Divine names is of relatively greater importance for the analysis of JE than it is for the separation of JE from P; but there are many cases in which it is not the only criterion on which critics rely for the purpose” (Driver, Genesis, Addenda ii., p. xliv).

With regard to the Hebrew text, the general agreement of the Samaritan Version in the use of the Divine Names shews that in Palestine there was no serious change, and certainly no arbitrary change, in their transcription, from a time not improbably previous to the LXX translation. The LXX MSS. are full of variations. In the rendering of the Sacred Names, the Greek translator would not attach the significance to the difference between θεός and κύριος (ΘΣ, ΚΣ) which the Hebrew discerned between Elohim and Jahweh. The Greek copyist would prefer the use of ὁ θεός. Habit, as well as feelings of reverence, would lead to the substitution of ὁ θεός or κύριος ὁ θεός for the Hebraic ὁ κύριος. The tendency, therefore, both in the translation and in the transcription of the Greek Version, would not be on the side of scrupulous avoidance of alteration.

The substitution of one Divine Name for another in a translation, e.g. in the A.V.’s mistake of “God” for “Lord” (Gen. 6:5), will, generally, be a matter of small moment. But in the transmission of the original Hebrew text, certainly from the 2nd cent a.d., a painful care, almost amounting to superstition, has been shewn by Hebrew copyists. The LXX contains valuable material for the textual criticism of the O.T. But in the Hebrew of Genesis the number of doubtful readings is very small, and the superiority of the Greek translation (if the original Greek text is obtainable) over the Hebrew text, in such a matter as the readings for the Divine Names, could not, with any regard for accuracy of statement, be asserted as a general principle. Nor, indeed, except at the most in one or two instances, could it reasonably be claimed in connexion with the reading of the Sacred Names. The mere occurrence of variants in the LXX, or other versions, is no evidence that they represent a more original reading than that of the Massoretic, or official Hebrew text. And where the Sacred Names occur, the presumption is in favour of the greater scrupulousness, care, and avoidance of variation, on the part of the Hebrew copyist than of the Greek transcriber or translator.

The LXX variations, as Dr Skinner has pointed out, would, at the most, only throw doubt upon “three-sixteenths of the whole number” of the occurrences of the Divine Names in Genesis. And, even in this small proportion of cases, there are very few, if any instances, where the Greek variation from the Heb. text of the Divine Name is not to be ascribed rather to loose inaccurate renderings than to any superiority of reading.

For a full and exhaustive enquiry into the whole subject, which is too technical to be pursued here, see Dr Skinner’s valuable articles in the Expositor, April–September, 1913, entitled “The Divine Names in Genesis”; Driver’s Genesis, Addenda ii. (1910); L. O. T. Addenda, pp. xxvi–xxxiii (1913); D. C. Simpson’s Pentateuchal Criticism (1914), which in an Appendix discusses B. D. A. Troelstra’s The Name of God in the Pentateuch; and, on the other side, Wiener’s Essays on Pentateuchal Criticism (1909), and Dahse’s Text-Kritische Materialien zur Hexateuchfrage (1912).

§ 10. Bibliography

(a) Commentaries:

The Book of Genesis, by S. R. Driver, D.D. (Westminster Commentaries), 8th ed., 1911 (London).

A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis, by John Skinner, D.D. (International Critical Commentary), 1910 (Edinburgh).

Genesis Critically and Exegetically Expounded, by Dr A. Dillmann (Eng. Trans.), 1897.

Genesis übersetzt u. erklärt, von D. Hermann Gunkel, 3te Aufl., 1910 (Göttingen)

Genesis (The Century Bible), by W. H. Bennett, D.D. (Edinburgh).

The Book of Genesis (The Expositor’s Bible), by Marcus Dods, D.D., 1890 (Edinburgh).

The Book of Genesis, by G. Woosung Wade, D.D., 1896.

The Early Traditions of Genesis, by A. R. Gordon, D.Litt., 1907 (Edinburgh).

The Early Narratives of Genesis, by Herbert E. Ryle, D.D., 3rd ed., 1904 (London).

Genesis, erklärt von D. Holzinger (Kurzer Hand-Commentar A.T.), 1898 (Freiburg).

Die Genesis übersetzt u. erklärt, von D. Otto Pröcksch, 1913 (Leipzig).

A New Commentary on Genesis, by Franz Delitzsch, D.D. (Eng. Trans.), 1888.

Notes on the Text of the Book of Genesis, by G. J. Spurrell, M.A., 1896 (Oxford).

The Speaker’s Commentary, vol. i., pt i (1876)

(b) Introductions

Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, 9th ed. (1913).

Driver, Exodus (1911).

Chapman, Introduction to the Pentateuch (1911).

Carpenter and Harford, The Composition of the Hexateuch (1902).

G. Buchanan Gray, A Critical Introduction to the O.T. (1913).

D. G. Simpson, Pentateuchal Criticism (1914).

W. R. Smith, Old Testament in the Jewish Church, 2nd ed. (1892).

(c) Archaeology

J. H. Breasted, History of the Ancient Egyptians (1908).

Flinders Petrie, History of Egypt, vols. i. and ii.

D. G. Hogarth, Authority and Archaeology (1899).

Driver, Schweich Lectures (1908), on “Modern Research as illustrating the Bible” (1909).

P. S. P. Handcock’s Latest Light on Bible Lands (S.P.C.K.), 1913.

C. I. Ball, Light from the East (1899).

Alfred Jeremias, Old Testament in the Light of the East, 2 vols. (Eng. Trans.) (1911).

A. H. Sayce, TheHigher Criticismand the Verdict of the Monuments (1894).

A. H. Sayce, The Early History of the Hebrews (1897).

L. W. King, The Seven Tablets of Creation (1902).

Morris Jastrow, Jr, The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria (1898).

Hugo Gressmann, Altorientalische Texte u. Bilder z. A. T., 2 Bde (1909).

(d) Dictionaries:

Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vols. (1898–1904).

Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible, 1 vol. (1909).

Cheyne and Black, Encyclopaedia Biblica, 4 vols. (1903).

Additional note on the date of P (page xxix)

The date of P is probably best assigned to the 6th or 5th century b.c. It embraces materials derived from an earlier period. Doubtless, also, it contains additions which were made to it subsequently. The authorship of it should not be ascribed to any individual; but rather to a school of priestly writers. Their literary activity belongs to the interval of time between the Captivity and the Age of Nehemiah. Some have conjectured that Ezra, the priest, himself was largely responsible for its final acceptance by the people and its incorporation with JE and D.1


The letters on the margin (J, E, P, R) indicate the sources of which the text appears to be composed.

In citations, the letters a and b denote the first and second parts of the verse cited.

In the transliteration of Hebrew words, it has been usual to adopt the following equivalents:

‘= א, ‘= ע, = ח, = ק, = צ;

but this has not been done in the case of familiar names.

Chronological Note

Babylonian and Egyptian civilization before 5000 b.c.:

Ḥammurabi, 6th king of First Dynasty of Babylon

2130–2088 b.c. (Ungnad)

1958–1916 b.c. (Meyer)

Expulsion of Hyksos from Egypt

1587 b.c. (Petrie)

1580 b.c. (Breasted)

Tel el-Amarna Correspondence:


Burnaburiash, king of Babylon

1399–1365 b.c. (Ungnad)

1382–1358 b.c. (Meyer)

Amenophis IV (Khu-n’aten)

1383–1365 b.c. (Petrie)

1375–1358 b.c. (Breasted)

Ramses II, probably Pharaoh of Oppression

1300–1234 b.c. (Petrie)

1292–1225 b.c. (Breasted)

Merenptah, probably Pharaoh of Exodus

1234–1214 b.c. (Petrie)

1225–1215 b.c. (Breasted)

The First Book of Moses

commonly called


Chapter 1:1–2:4a (P). The Creation Narrative

1–5. The Beginning of all Things, and the First Creation Day

1. In the beginning] B’rêshîth: LXX ἐν ἀρχῇ: Lat. in principio. This opening word expresses the idea of the earliest time imaginable. It contains no allusion to any philosophical conception of “eternity.” The language used in the account of Creation is neither that of abstract speculation nor of exact science, but of simple, concrete, and unscientific narrative.

The opening words of John’s Gospel (ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, 1:1) are based upon this clause. But, whereas St John refers to the Word’s eternal pre-existence before time, the Hebrew writer simply speaks of “the beginning” of the universe as the historic origin of time and space.

In the Hebrew Bible the book of Genesis is called “B’rêshîth,” deriving its title from this first word.

God] Elohim: LXX ὁ Θεός: Lat. Deus. See Introduction on “The Names of God.” The narrative begins with a statement assuming the Existence of the Deity. It is not a matter for discussion, argument, or doubt. The Israelite Cosmogony differs in this respect from that of the Babylonians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, &c. The Cosmogonies of the ancients were wont to be preceded by Theogonies. The existence and nativities of the creating divinities were accounted for in mythologies which were often highly complicated, and not seldom grotesque. The Hebrew narrator, by beginning with the Creation, emphasizes his entire freedom from, and exclusion of, polytheistic thought. If Polytheism had existed in the earliest Hebrew times, it had been abandoned in the growing light of the Israelite religion. “God” is infinite; He was before all time: “In the beginning God created.” Upon the subject of the Divine Existence prior to “the beginning” the writer does not presume to speculate. That Israelite imagination did not wholly avoid the subject, we know from Job 28:25–28, Prov. 8:22–30, Wisd. 9:9, Ecclus. 24:9.

Concerning the Israelite conception of God (Elohim), we learn (1) from the present verse, that He (i) is a Person, and (ii) exists from all eternity; (2) from the whole passage, 1:1–2:4a, that He is (i) supreme in power, and (ii) perfect in wisdom and goodness. The attribute of power is shewn in creative omnipotence; that of wisdom in the orderly sequence of creation; that of goodness in the benevolent purpose which directed its successive phases.

created] The word so rendered (bârâ, LXX ἐποίησεν, Lat. creavit) is used especially of the acts of God, in doing, or calling into existence, something new or marvellous: cf. Ex. 34:10, “I will do marvels such as have not been wrought (Heb. created) in all the earth”: Ps. 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart.” In the present section it occurs again in connexion with (1) the creation of living organisms (ver. 21); (2) the creation of man (ver. 27); (3) the creation of the whole universe (2:3, 4). It is used in Ps. 148:5, “He commanded, and they were created,” where the reference is to this section.

A different word, “made” (‘âsâh), is used in connexion with the “firmament” (ver. 7), the heavenly bodies (ver. 16), the terrestrial animals (ver. 25).

It is, however, a mistake to suppose that the word bârâ necessarily means “to create out of nothing.”

the heaven and the earth] These words express the Hebrew conception of the created universe. They do not denote, as has of late been suggested, “matter” in the mass, or in the rough. They embrace sky, earth, and ocean: cf. 14:19, 22, 24:3; Dt. 3:24.

Attention should be called to an alternative rendering of this verse, preferred by many eminent commentators. It turns upon the grammatical point that the first word of the verse, “B’rêshîth,” means literally “In beginning,” not “In the beginning,” which would be “Bârêshîth.” Consequently, it is contended that “B’rêshîth,” being grammatically in “the construct state,” should be translated “In the beginning of,” or “In the beginning when”; and not, as if in “the absolute state,” “In the beginning.” If this contention, i.e. that b’rêshîth is in the construct state, be correct, verse 1 will be the protasis; verse 2 will be a parenthesis; verse 3 will be the apodosis: “In the beginning when God created the heaven and the earth (now the earth was waste, &c.… upon the face of the waters), then God said, ‘Let there be light.’ ”

In comparison with our familiar translation (in both R.V. and A.V.) the alternative rendering seems to present the serious disadvantage of opening the book with a long, cumbrous, and involved sentence. The reply, that the second creation narrative (2:4b–7) opens with a similarly long sentence, hardly meets the objection. The opening words of the whole book can hardly be compared with the opening words of a subsequent section.

The simplicity and dignity of the short opening sentence in the familiar translation impress themselves upon every reader. The author of the Fourth Gospel was evidently conscious of it.

The force of the grammatical objection is weakened by the parallel case of the anarthrous use of b’rêshîth in Is. 46:10. It is doubtful whether rêshîth is found with the article. In the present instance, it may be pleaded that the absence of the article lends a significant indefiniteness. The rendering of the LXX, in ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν, which supports the anarthrous b’rêshîth (ἐν ἀρχῇ, not ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ), was evidently the traditional rendering of the Jews in at least the third century b.c. The rendering of the Targum of Onkelos, “In the first times” (b’qadmin), supports it in the second century a.d.

And the earth, &c.] Notice, in the present verse, (1) that “darkness” exists which God is not said to have made: (2) that “waters” exist before the formation of the seas: (3) that “the spirit of God” is mentioned, without explanation of its nature or origin, as “brooding upon the face of the waters.” The whole picture is vague and obscure, because the touches, by which it is conveyed, are left unexplained. The old monstrous and grotesque figures with which primitive Semitic, and possibly primitive Hebrew, imagination sought to fill up the void of the unimaginable past, have been left out. The gap which they filled is not wholly supplied. The description is brief and condensed. But, even making allowance for the brevity of the narrative, we are conscious of the presence of features in it, which represent the dim and cancelled outlines of an earlier mythological story. The thought of the Israelite reader is elevated to a higher religious plane in this simple and stately account.

the earth] i.e. the materials out of which the universe is formed. We are not told what the origin of these materials was, or whether God had created them. God is not here spoken of as creating the universe out of nothing, but rather as creating it out of a watery chaos: cf. Wisd. 11:18. That which is affirmed in Heb. 11:3, i.e. that God did not make “that which is seen out of things which do appear,” is not asserted in this verse, though it is implied in the general representation of God’s omnipotence and His solitary personal action.

was] The simplest description of what “existed” before the first day of Creation. To translate “became,” or “came into being,” in order to import into the verse an allusion to the nebular hypothesis for the origin of the solar system, is an expedient not to be entertained by any scholarly interpreter. It has, however, found favour in some quarters. Apologists have been known to appeal to this verse as demonstrating that the Bible contains anticipations of the latest discoveries in Natural Science, as if the Hebrew auxiliary denoted the process of gradual evolution out of nebulous gas.

The theory, however, would never have been thought of except for the well-meaning, but mistaken, purpose of defending the honour of Holy Scripture on the supposition that it must contain perfection of instruction upon all matters of scientific knowledge.

It is sufficient to remind the reader that the ancients were entirely ignorant of the Copernican theory of the solar system; and, ex hypothesi, could not have comprehended Laplace’s nebular theory.

It violates every canon of interpretation to assume that simple words, like “earth,” “darkness,” “water,” &c., were intended to convey to the Israelite reader not the meanings which the Hebrew equivalents everywhere else conveyed, but those which could only be understood after the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century had transformed men’s conception of the universe.

Equally arbitrary is the explanation of this verse, that it is intended to summarize the period, or periods, of catastrophe which, according to some writers, preceded the present geological condition of our planet. Geology is a modern science. The view which regarded the geological history of the globe as a succession of gigantic catastrophes is now very generally abandoned. The theory, that the earth has reached its present condition through gradual changes which have taken place during an enormous span of time (the uniformitarian theory), has now received the general adherence of geologists. (Cf. Sir Arch. Geikie, Art. “Geology,” Encyc. Brit.)

On the other hand, the Hebrew conception of the Creation in this chapter is in agreement with a fundamental principle of scientific thought. It recognizes in Nature an orderly progress from the simple into the complex, from the lower into the higher. Evolution, in the modern acceptance of the word, would have been unintelligible. But the ideas of order and progress, which it endorses and illustrates, are dominant in the present description. See Special Note, pp. 45 f.

waste and void] A.V. “without form and void.” The Heb. tôhû va-bhôhû is untranslateable. The LXX, ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, “invisible and unformed,” fails to give the meaning. The Latin, inanis et vacua, is closer to the original. The alliteration of the Heb. words cannot be reproduced in English: “void and vacancy” would partially represent the sense and the sound.

tôhû in Isai. 45:18, where there is a reference to the Creation Narrative, seems to denote “waste” or “vacancy”; while bôhû = “emptiness,” “void,” occurs elsewhere only in Isai. 34:11, Jer. 4:23, with a reference to the present passage. Conceivably, the words may contain some similarity to primitive names, which had become obsolete, but which had been used to personify the conditions of chaos out of which the universe was formed. We may, at least, in connexion with this suggestion, compare the Phoenician Βαύυ = Night, the Mother of Chaos, and the Gnostic technical terms Βύθος and Χαός, designating primaeval matter.

darkness] The existence of “darkness” is here assumed. It is not said to have been created. “Light,” not “darkness,” has its origin in the creative act of God.

For another conception, cf. Isai. 45:7, “I form the light, and create darkness.”

the deep] Heb. t’hôm, LXX ἀβύσσου, Lat. abyssi. This word is generally used in the O.T. for the “Ocean,” which, according to Hebrew ideas, both encircled the world, and occupied the vast hollows beneath the earth: cf. Gen. 49:25. It is used like a proper name, without the article; and is very probably Babylonian in origin. In the present verse it denotes the chaotic watery waste destined on the Second Day to be confined within certain definite limits. It is conceivable that in primitive Hebrew mythology this t’hôm, or “abyss,” fulfilled the same part as the somewhat similar Babylonian Tiamtu, or Tiamath, “the Goddess of the Great Deep,” with a dragon’s body, whose destruction preceded the creative deeds of the Babylonian Supreme God, Marduk, or Merodach. Marduk slew the dragon, clave its body in two parts, and made the heaven of one portion, and the earth of the other. See Appendix A.

The Hebrew notion that, before the Creation, the universe was enveloped in the waters of the great deep is possibly referred to in Ps. 104:6, “Thou coveredst it [the earth] with the deep as with a vesture,” cf. Ps. 33:7.

the spirit of God] Nothing could more effectually distinguish the Hebrew Narrative of the Creation from the representations of primitive mythology than the use of this simple and lofty expression for the mysterious, unseen, and irresistible presence and operation of the Divine Being. It is the “breath” of God which alone imparts light to darkness and the principle of life to inert matter.

The student should be warned against identifying this expression with the Holy Spirit in the Christian doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. We must not look for the distinctive teaching of the Christian Revelation in the pages of the O.T.

The word for “wind,” Heb. ruaḥ, Gr. πνεῦμα, Lat. spiritus, was accepted as the most suitable term to express the invisible agency of God. In consequence, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether the word is used literally in its meaning of “wind” or “breath,” or metaphorically in its meaning of “spirit” as the symbol of the invisible operation and influence of the Almighty. An instance of this ambiguity occurs in our Lord’s words in John 3:8, “The wind (πνεῦμα) bloweth (marg. ‘The Spirit breatheth’) where it listeth, &c.… so is every one that is born of the Spirit (πνεῦμα).” Similarly, whereas the Targum of Onkelos probably rendered our clause by “wind from the Lord blew upon the face of the waters,” the Targum of Palestine renders “the Spirit of mercies from the Lord breathed upon the face of the waters.”

moved upon the face of the waters] The rendering of the margin, was brooding upon, furnishes the picture of a bird spreading its wings over its nest; it also reproduces the meaning of the participle of the Hebrew verb, which implies continuousness in the action. For the use of the same unusual Hebrew word, cf. Deut. 32:11. “As an eagle that stirreth up her nest, That fluttereth over her young, He spread abroad his wings, He took them, He bare them on his pinions.”

By the selection of this word the writer conveys the thought that the continuous, fostering care of the Almighty was given to the welter of primaeval chaos no less than to the orderly successive phenomena of the universe.

Milton employs this metaphor in two well-known passages.

Thou from the first

Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,

Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,

And mad’st it pregnant …

Par. Lost, i. 19.

… Matter unformed and void. Darkness profound

Covered the Abyss; but on the watery calm

His brooding wings the Spirit of God outspread,

And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth,

Throughout the fluid mass.…

—vii. 234.

It may, indeed, be questioned whether, if the word is intended to denote the action of a bird, it should not be rendered “was fluttering,” or “was hovering,” rather than “was brooding.” Motion seems to be implied: and the simile is not so much that of a bird sitting upon its nest as that of a bird hovering with outstretched wings over the young ones in the nest. The choice of the word, with its allusion to bird life, has been thought to contain an intentional reference to primitive mythologies, e.g. Phoenician, Egyptian, according to which the universe was hatched by a female deity out of the primaeval egg of Chaos.

3. The First Day

And God said] Observe here that the spoken Word is the only means employed throughout the six days’ Creation, cf. Ps. 33:6, 9, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.… For he spake, and it was done: he commanded, and it stood fast.” Creation by a word combines the idea of perfect facility with that of absolute power.

It is only through the Revelation of the N.T. that we learn to identify the work of Creation with the operation of the Personal Word (John 1:3): “All things were made through him (ὁ Λόγος); and without him was not anything made that hath been made,” cf. Col. 1:16, “For in him [the Son] were all things created … all things have been created through him, and unto him.” Heb. 1:2, “through whom [his Son] also he made the worlds.”

Let there be light] This command, in the Hebrew, consists of two short words, y’hi ‘ôr. Light is the first created thing, that upon which depends all life and growth known to us on earth.

For “light” as the symbol of the Divine presence in the Revelation of the N.T., cf. John 1:4, “in him was life; and the life was the light of men,” cf. v. 9, and 8:12, “I am the light of the world.”

and there was light] Literally, “and light came into existence.” Apparently the primitive conception of the Hebrews was that light and darkness were separate things, incomprehensible indeed, but independent of the sun, cf. Job 26:10, 38:19, “where is the way to the dwelling of light, and as for darkness, where is the place thereof?” The unscientific notions of the Israelite have received in regard to light an unexpected illustration from modern discovery; but we must be careful not to suppose that there is any resemblance between the Hebrew picture of the creation of light, and modern theories respecting light and the ether of infinite space. The Hebrew view of the universe was (cf. vv. 6–8) extremely limited; the modern scientific view of the universe is practically infinite in its capacity for development, and is continually being enlarged. There is little room for comparison between them.

And God … good] This phrase is repeated (vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, and in slightly amplified form, v. 31) at each successive creative act, except on the second day (v. 8, where see note). The purpose of this sentence is to express (1) that the phenomena of the natural world, in their respective provinces, fulfil the will of the Creator, (2) that what is in accordance with His will is “good” in His sight.

and God divided … darkness] By this simple and concrete expression it is implied, that God assigned their own places to “light” and “darkness” respectively, and that, before the moment of separation, the light had been confused and entangled in the darkness. The two elements were now divided, and apportioned to different dwelling places, cf. Job 38:19 quoted above.

And God called …] That God should give names to things is to our minds a strange and almost unintelligible thought. To the Hebrews, on the contrary, it seemed a natural feature of the story. To them the Hebrew language was that in which the Divine Will was expressed; and, to their minds, the Hebrew name and the thing which it designated had been rendered inseparable by Divine Decree on the day of its creation.

Observe that the names “Day” and “Night” are given to “light” and “darkness,” although the heavenly bodies are not made until the fourth day.

and there was …] The “day” with the Hebrews began in the evening. It was reckoned from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Israelite writer, therefore, in speaking of the days of Creation, describes them as ordinary days with their succession of evening and morning. There is no need to suppose, as some have done, that the “evening” in this verse refers to the pre-existent darkness of v. 2, and that “morning” denotes the period of light before the creative work of the second day. In the mention of the days, the Hebrew story of Creation is perfectly simple and natural. With childlike faith, it told how the Creator completed His work in a time corresponding to six earthly days, each consisting of evening and morning. The hallowing of the seventh day, in chap. 2:2, 3, presupposes the literal character of the previous six days.

Suggestions have frequently been made in the course of the last half century, that each of the six days is to be understood as a period of indefinite duration. But it is important to remember that the facts, with which modern science has familiarized us, respecting the antiquity of the earth, as shewn by geology, and our solar system, as shewn by astronomy, were wholly unknown until quite recent times. We must be careful, therefore, not to read back such notions into the minds of the writer and of those for whom he wrote this chapter. The assumption that the inspired record must be literally accurate has led to much misinterpretation of Scripture as well as to great mental confusion and religious distress.

The difficulties, which have been felt with regard to the mention of “days,” have arisen from the natural wish to reconcile the plain and childlike language of ancient unscientific Semitic story, which accounted for the origin of the world, with the abstruse and dazzling discoveries of modern Physical Science. The two must be kept absolutely distinct.

one day] So the Hebrew, not “the first day”; but “one day,” LXX ἡμέρα μία, Lat. dies unus.

6–8. The Firmament of the Heaven

Let there be … waters] The work of the “second day” is the creation of the so-called “firmament” of heaven. The Hebrews had no conception of an infinite ethereal space. The vault of heaven was to them a solid arched, or vaulted, structure, resting upon the pillars of the earth (Job 26:11). On the top of this dome were the reservoirs of “the waters above the heaven,” which supplied the rain and the dew. Beneath the earth were other reservoirs of waters, which were the sources of the seas, lakes, rivers and springs. After the creation of light the next creative act was, according to the Hebrew cosmogony, the division of the primaeval watery abyss, by means of a solid partition which is here denoted by the word rendered “firmament.” The waters are above it and below it.

a firmament] This word reproduces the Lat. firmamentum; LXX στερέωμα. The Hebrew râqîa denotes (see Heb. Lex.) “extended surface, (solid) expanse” (as if beaten out; cf. Job 37:18). For the verb raq’a=beat, or spread, out, cf. Ex. 39:3, Num. 17:4, Jer. 10:4, Ezek. 1:22, “and over the head of the living creatures there was the likeness of a firmament … stretched forth over their heads above.” Compare Job 37:18, “canst thou with him spread out (tarqi’a) the sky which is strong as a molten mirror?” See Ps. 19:1, 150:1, Dan. 12:3, where “firmament” = sky.


A diagram representing the Semitic conception of the Universe.

From Dr Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, by kind permission of Messrs T. & T. Clark.

For the solidity of the heaven according to this conception, cf. Amos 9:6, “it is he that buildeth his chambers in the heaven, and hath founded his vault upon the earth.” The fall of rain was regarded as the act of God in opening the sluices of heaven, cf. Gen. 7:11, 2 Kings 7:2, 19, Ps. 78:23, 148:4, “ye waters that be above the heavens.”

The LXX adds at the end of this verse, “and it was so.” This formula, which appears in vv. 11, 15 and 24, in each case after the words of Divine fiat, seems more suitable here than at the close of v. 7, as in the Hebrew text.

and it was so] This formula is here out of place. See previous note.

God called the firmament Heaven] It is clear therefore that what the Hebrews meant by “Heaven,” was neither the clouds and mist, nor the empty space of the sky. It was a solid arch, to which, as we shall see in v. 14, the luminaries of the sky could be attached.

At the close of the description of the work on the other days, we find the formula “And God saw that it was good” (vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The omission of it here, at the close of the second day, is probably due to textual error.

LXX adds after the word “Heaven,” “and God saw that it was good.” It is more probable that the words have fallen out accidentally from the Hebrew text, than that the formula was intentionally omitted because, “the waters under the firmament” not having yet received their place, the Divine work upon the waters of the deep was regarded as still incomplete.

9–13. The Third Day—Two Creative Acts. (1) The Separation of Sea and Earth (vv. 9, 10). (2) The Creation of the Vegetable World (vv. 11–13)

Let the waters … appear] In this verse the dry land is rendered visible by the removal of the waters, that were under the Heaven, into their special place. The account reads as if the Earth had existed previously, but had been submerged in the water. It is not stated that God made the earth at this juncture; but only that He now caused it to become visible. The description of the formation of the earth, like other details of the old Hebrew cosmogony, has been omitted either for the sake of brevity, or in order to free the account from materials which were out of harmony with its general religious teaching.

unto one place] According to the Hebrew conception the Earth was supposed to have a flat surface, surrounded on all sides by the ocean; while the ocean was connected by subterranean channels with vast reservoirs of water that lay under the earth and fed the springs and rivers. Cf. Ps. 24:2, “for he hath founded it (the world) upon the seas, and established it upon the floods”; 139:9, “if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.” In the story of the Flood we read that “all the fountains of the great deep” (Gen. 7:11 P) were broken up.

Instead of “place,” the LXX reads “gathering,” συναγωγήν, the word which is reproduced in the familiar term “synagogue.” It has been suggested that this may very possibly represent the original reading; and that, at any rate, the less usual word מִקְוֶה, miqveh = “gathering,” was more likely to be altered in transcription into the common word מָקוֹם, maqom = “place,” than vice versa. On the other hand, the word מִקְוֶה, miqveh, occurs in the following verse (v. 10), “the gathering together of the waters” (τὰ συστέματα τῶν ὑδάτων), in a slightly different sense, and a copyist may have introduced the word here by accident and given rise to the LXX rendering.

the dry land] That is, the surface, or crust, as it would now be called, of the earth, consisting of soil, sand, and rock. Christian tradition, until the beginning of the 19th or the end of the 18th century, was satisfied that the Hebrew narrative, attributing the origin of the earth’s crust to the work of a single day, adequately met the requirements of terrestrial phenomena, and did justice to the conception of Divine omnipotence. The rise of the science of Geology, in the last century and a half, has totally transformed educated opinion. It is recognized that the Hebrew cosmogony is devoid of scientific value (see p. 4). Geologists are agreed that the cooling process, by which the surface of the glowing and molten body of our planet came to be sufficiently solidified to support the weight of vast seas, must have extended over long ages to be reckoned by millions and millions of years. The subsequent geological ages, Palaeozoic, Mesozoic, Cainozoic, and Quaternary, which account for the gradual formation of the rocks as we know them, have been demonstrated to have covered a similarly stupendous length of time. The thicknesses of the successive geological strata furnish the means of estimating the relative durations of the periods. The infinite tracts of time and space, which modern science has in an increasing degree revealed to be in relation to one supreme and all embracing harmony, testify to the omnipotence of the Divine Will and Wisdom even more impressively than did the brief and intermittent acts of Creative Power, which in the legends of the ancient world accounted for the origin of earth and sea and stars.

The LXX adds at the end of the verse, “And the water that was under the heaven was gathered together into their gatherings (συναγωγὰς αὐτῶν), and the dry land appeared,” which looks like a gloss. But αὐτῶν implies a Heb. original (i.e. the plural form הַמַּיִם, “the waters,” not the sing. τὸ ὕδωρ).

Let the earth … grass] The creation of the vegetable world follows naturally and logically upon the emergence of the earth out of the waters. The most common and beautiful thing in nature, in the East, is the instantaneous appearance of fresh green blade and shoot, after the rain has fallen upon some parched and apparently lifeless soil. This phenomenon suitably marks the commencement of organic life in the Hebrew cosmogony.

It is doubtful whether we should distinguish in this verse three, or two, types of vegetation. Assuming that the former is to be preferred, we may distinguish (1) the grasses, (2) the herbs, (3) the trees. According to another view, the main class of vegetation (“grass”) is described under two heads, (1) the herbs, (2) the fruit-trees.

This classification of the vegetable world into three (or two) orders marks the beginnings of what we call botany. The “herb” and the “fruit-tree” are described in popular language, according to the mode of their propagation by seed or fruit.

after its kind] The word is collective, and the phrase means according to their various species. Cf. vv. 21, 25; 6:20 (P).

We should notice the emphasis that is here laid upon the fact that both the main orders of the vegetable kingdom and their subdivisions have their origin in the Divine command. The food of the Oriental is almost entirely vegetable.

14–19. Fourth Day. The Creation of the Heavenly Bodies

Observe that the creation of the “lights” in the heaven on the fourth day corresponds to the creation of “light” on the first day. If we divide the six days into two groups of three, there are in each group four creative acts, and at the head of each group is the creation of light in two different forms, (1) elemental, (2) sidereal.

14. Let there be lights] The word rendered “lights” (LXX φωστῆρες: Lat. luminaria) denotes a thing, or body, carrying light; cf. Ps. 74:16, “The day is thine, the night also is thine: Thou hast prepared the light (Heb. luminary) and the sun”; Ezek. 32:8, “All the bright lights of heaven.”

It has seemed strange to some that the creation of the heavenly bodies should follow after that of the vegetable world, whose life, according to our notions, is dependent on the light of the sun. But, beside the artificial arrangement (according to which the creation of “the lights” of the sky on the fourth day corresponds to the creation of “the light” on the first day), it is probable that, in the ascending scale from vegetable organisms to animal life, the “lights,” i.e. the sun, moon, and stars, with their mysterious movements and changing, yet ordered, paths in the sky, seemed to be endowed with a vital activity, which, if inferior to that of the animals, yet was far surpassing that of the plants.

Described in terms of astronomy, the account here given of the origin and functions of the heavenly bodies is, what is called, “geocentric,” that is, it supposes the earth to be the centre of the system. It conceives the sun, moon and stars to be much smaller bodies of varied light-giving capacity, formed for purposes of use to the dwellers upon earth, and attached to the roof of heaven at no very great altitude above the flat earth.

Primitive and childlike will this Hebrew view seem now to us who inherit the privilege of the continually advancing discoveries of astronomical science since the days of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. But we shall do well to recollect, that the statement in these verses respecting the origin, nature, and function of the heavenly bodies, stands on an immensely higher level of reasonable and dignified intelligence, than the notions of other peoples in the ancient world, who identified the heavenly bodies with gods, or semi-divine beings, exercising a benevolent or malevolent potency over the affairs of men and women, countries, and nations. The Hebrew account is simple almost to baldness, but it is an account which harmonizes with the fear and worship of the one God of Israel. There is neither idolatry nor superstition in it. It gives no loophole for the follies or fears of astrology, which even down to modern times has been known to enslave the reason of Christian minds.

God is described as calling into existence the heavenly bodies for three distinct purposes: (1) to divide between day and night; (2) to determine periods of time, days, months, years, seasons, festivals, &c.; (3) to give light upon earth, providing by day for the growth, health, and strength of living organisms, and by night for the guidance of the wayfarer and the mariner.

for signs, and for seasons] Literally, “for signs and for fixed times.”

The seasons of the year were indicated by the position of the sun, moon, and stars; the “signs” probably have special reference to the constellations, and especially to what are called “the constellations of the Zodiac”—a knowledge of which was from a very early time possessed by the Babylonians. Comets, eclipses, shooting-stars, &c. would also be included among the “signs” of the sky.

The “fixed times” probably denote the periods of the year for agricultural and rural occupations, together with their festivals. Days of festivals were determined by particular moons, or by the rising of particular stars. Cf. Job 38:32, “Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth (signs of the Zodiac) in their season?”

16. And God made, &c.] The work of creation on the fourth day is twofold. In verse 16 God is said to make the sun, the moon, and the stars; in verse 17 He is said to set them in their place.

It is noticeable that, although the “greater” and the “lesser lights” are here mentioned, the names of “sun” and “moon” are omitted: possibly in order to avoid reference by name to heavenly bodies whose worship was a source of idolatrous superstition, from the peril of which Israel was not free.

to rule] This expression assigns to the sun and moon a kind of quasi-personal dominion over the realms of day and night. Cf. Job 38:33, “Knowest thou the ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou establish the dominion thereof in the earth?” Possibly the expression “rule” may be a survival of an earlier stage in the Hebrew cosmogony, in which the sun and moon received some kind of personification. At least, the word is noticeable in a context singularly tree from metaphor.

he made the stars also] A translation must fail to do justice to, the abruptness of the original, which literally runs, “and the stars.” The brevity of this clause, together with the absence of any further definition of the function of “the stars” as distinguished from “the greater lights,” is very noteworthy. It may possibly indicate a necessary abbreviation, in order to remove some older features of the cosmogony which conflicted with the pure monotheism of Israel.

17. And God set them] Having made the heavenly bodies (as in v. 16) God is now said to “set,” that is, to place (LXX ἔθετο, Lat. posuit), them in “the firmament of heaven.” They are located in the firm structure which stood as a dome, or convex roof, over the surface of the earth; see note v. 6; cf. Pliny ii. 106, sidera coelo adfixa. No mention is here added of the movements of the heavenly bodies; nor is any explanation given, in this condensed narrative, of the way in which the luminaries placed in the firmament were nevertheless apparently possessed with mysterious powers of movement; cf. Job 38:32. They occupied certain positions, and moved upon certain paths, appointed them by God; and, like the sea, they were not able to pass the bounds set them.

20–23. The Fifth Day. The Creation of Water Animals and Flying Animals

Let the waters … life] The rendering, “bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life,” fails to give the full meaning of the original. Literally, the words mean “let the waters swarm swarms, even living soul”: and the purpose of the command is that the waters are to teem with myriads of living animals. Hence the R.V. margin, “swarm with swarms of living creatures” is closer to the original; but it fails to reproduce the phrase “living soul,” in apposition to the word translated “swarms.” No translation is satisfactory which fails to give prominence to the thought, that the waters are to teem with things endowed with a wondrous new gift, the active principle of animal life, which the Hebrews called nephesh, and which is nearly represented by the Greek ψυχή. We might, therefore, translate “let the waters swarm with swarms of creatures, even with countless things which have life.”

That there should ever be any difficulty in deciding whether an organism belonged to the vegetable or to the animal “kingdom would never have occurred to an ancient writer.

The rendering “the moving creature” went wrong in following the ancient versions, which supposed that the word rendered in the margin “swarm,” denoted only “creeping things” or “reptiles.” LXX ἑρπετὰ ψυχῶν ζωσῶν. Lat. reptile animae viventis. This gives an entirely false impression. The command is for the creation of all sorts of water animals.

and let fowl fly] Rather, “and let winged things fly.” The command includes all creatures with wings, e.g. bats, butterflies, beetles, insects, as well as birds.

in the open firmament of heaven] This rendering scarcely reproduces the sense of the Hebrew words, which literally mean “in the face of,” or “over against, the firmament of heaven.” The idea is that winged things are to fly “above” the earth, and “in front of” the vault of heaven. The R.V. margin, on the face of the expanse of the heaven, is cumbrous and obscure. The meaning seems to be that the flight of winged things shall be in mid air, “in front,” as it were, of the solid “firmament of heaven,” which was not remote. The winged creatures would continually be visible against the sky.

And God created] Observe the use of the word “create” (Heb. bârâ). It signalizes a new departure of the Divine work, when the principle of animal life (nephesh) is first communicated on earth, and living animals are formed: cf. note on v. 1.

The writer does not directly speak of fish; but the water animals are described under two main classes, which would include all marine and fresh-water creatures.

the great sea-monsters] Better, “the great monsters.” The word in the Hebrew is applied to monsters, or creatures of strange and monstrous size, such as occur in mythological and poetical pictures, e.g. the Dragon, Behemoth, and Leviathan; cf. Ps. 74:13, 148:7, Is. 27, 51:9. It was also used of the crocodile (cf. Ezek. 29:3), and of snakes (Ex. 7:9). The Hebrew did not know of the megatherium, ichthyosaurus, iguanodon, &c. But the expression here used is singularly appropriate to them.

The translation of the A.V., “great whales,” was based upon the versions LXX τὰ κήτη τὰ μεγάλα, Vulg. cete grandia; but the word is used of any animals of vast size. Moreover, there is no probability that the warm-blooded marine animal, which we call a “whale,” was known to the Israelites.

every living creature] Literally, “and all the living soul that moveth with which the waters swarmed.” This is the second main class of water animals, viz. all the things in which is the principle of animal life, and with which the waters teem. They are further described by their motion, “that moveth.” The Hebrew word denotes the gliding, swift movement of the fish for which there is no adequate English equivalent.

The LXX, πᾶσαν ψυχὴν ζώων ἑρπετῶν, gives too restricted a sense and suggests only lizards and reptiles: while the Vulg. omnem animam viventem atque motabilem, like the R.V., is too general.

which … brought forth abundantly] Better, “with which the waters teemed” or “swarmed.”

after their kinds] Cf. vv. 11, 12; the expression has reference to the great variety of species of water animals.

and every winged fowl] or “and every winged flying thing”: LXX πᾶν πετεινὸν πτερωτόν. The actual word “bird” is not used, doubtless intentionally, in order that the class may comprehend as many varieties as possible of winged creatures.

The assignment of the creation of birds and fishes to the second day after that of vegetation is probably due to the view that an ascending scale of vitality is represented by plants, heavenly bodies, fish, and birds. Clearly the Israelite drew a very sharp line of distinction between the vegetable and the animal world. Modern science has shewn how infinitely fine is this line; and geology has shewn that, in the earliest rock formations which contain fossils, it is difficult to decide whether vegetable or animal life recedes into the most distant antiquity.

God blessed them] With the creation of the living animals of the water and the air is introduced the mention of a new Divine act, that of blessing. It is connected with the gift of life (see note on v. 21). The animal world differs from the vegetable world in its distinctive principle of life. The animals possess powers, instincts, and energies which are to be exercised, and on the exercise of which God gives His blessing. He has placed them in conditions favourable to their development and multiplication. Modern science, especially as represented by the honoured names of Darwin and Lyell, has shewn in what wonderful and varied ways the blessing of God has attended both the multiplication of animal life and the adaptation of the animals to their surroundings.

24–31. Sixth Day:

(a) Creation of the Land Animals (vv. 24, 25);

(b) Creation of Man (vv. 26–30);

(c) The End of the Creation (v. 31),

Let the earth, &c.] The work of the sixth, like that of the third, day is twofold. Furthermore, the creation of the land animals on the sixth day seems to correspond to the creation of the earth on the third day.

The creation of the land animals immediately precedes that of mankind. It is implied that they are closer both in structure and in intelligence to the human race than the animals of the water and air. On the other hand, the words “let the earth bring forth” (the same phrase as is used in v. 11 of the creation of the vegetable world) emphasize the difference in origin between the land animals (“let the earth bring forth”) and mankind, who are described (vv. 26, 27) as, in a special manner, “created” by God Himself.

the living creature] viz. “living soul,” as above (vv. 20, 21). Here the words are used especially of the land animals. To speak of animals having “a soul” is strange to modern ears. But it was not so to the Israelites, who realized, perhaps better than we do, man’s kinship with the animal world, in virtue of that principle of nephesh, the mystery of life, which is shared by the animals and human beings.

after its kind] viz. the various species of the animals about to be mentioned.

cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth] This is a rough threefold classification of the animals dwelling on the earth: (1) “the cattle” (Heb. behêmah, LXX τετράποδα (= “quadrupeds”), Lat. jumenta (= “cattle”)), under which head are here probably classed all the domestic animals, e.g. oxen, sheep, horses, asses, camels, as in Jonah 4:11. Here it seems to be implied that the domestic animals were tame originally, and not through association with mankind. (2) “creeping things”; LXX ἑρπετά, Lat. reptilia. In this class seem to be included not only snakes and lizards, but also the smaller animals, generally, and the insect world. (3) “the beasts of the earth”; LXX θηρία τῆς γῆς, Lat. bestias terrae, viz. the wild beasts, strictly so called, as distinguished from the domestic animals.

And God made] Notice the word “made,” Lat. fecit, not “created”; cf. vv. 7, 16.

and God saw that it was good] It is noticeable that the blessing, which followed these words after the creation of the water animals and the birds (v. 22), is here omitted. Either the blessing was allowed to drop out, in order that the description of the sixth day might not become too long in comparison with that of the previous five days; or the blessing so fully pronounced upon man in vv. 28–30 may be considered to embrace also the living creatures created on the same sixth day.

Let us make, &c.] The creation of man, although taking place on the same day with that of the land animals, is a completely separate creative act. It constitutes the climax and the crown of Creation. It is, therefore, described with especial fulness and solemnity. There is no formula, “let there be man,” or “let the earth bring forth man,” as in the case of the previous creative acts. We observe, (1) firstly, that God prefaces the creation of man with a declaration concerning (a) the Divine purpose; (b) man’s future nature; (c) his sphere of authority and influence (v. 26); (2) secondly, that in a direct and special manner God creates man, in His own image, both male and female (v. 27); (3) thirdly, that He both blesses them, and intrusts them with duties and powers upon the earth (v. 28); (4) fourthly, that He makes provision for their food and sustenance (v. 29), as well as for that of the lower animals.

Let us make] LXX ποιήσωμεν, Lat. faciamus. The use of the 1st pers. plur. is a well-known crux of interpretation. How are we to explain its occurrence in the utterance of the Almighty? The only other passages in which it is found are (1) Gen. 3:22, “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us“; (2) Gen. 11:7, “Go to, and let us go down, and there confound their language”; (3) Isai. 6:8, “And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Very different explanations have been given.

i. Until recently, the traditional Christian interpretation has seen in the 1st pers. plur. a reference to the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. The requirements of a sound historical exegesis render this view untenable: for it would read into the Book of Genesis the religious teaching which is based upon the Revelation of the New Testament.

ii. It has been regarded as a survival of polytheism, and has been compared with “Elohim,” a plural word for “God” which some regard as a relic of polytheism. But “Elohim, in the present context, is always combined with a verb in the singular. Why should “said” be in the singular, if “let us” indicates the plurality of Gods? Again, any departure from the strictest monotheism is unthinkable in the writing of the Priestly Code. The explanation may safely be dismissed as improbable in the extreme.

iii. It has been explained as the plural of Majesty. It is pointed out that the commands and rescripts of royal personages are conveyed in the 1st pers. plur.; and reference is made, in support of this view, to Ezra 4:18, 1 Macc. 10:19, 11:31. It may be allowed that the view is tenable; but the examples adduced are drawn from a very late period of Biblical literature, and, as an explanation, it appears to be little in harmony with the directness and simplicity of the passage.

iv. It has been explained as the “plural of the fulness of attributes and powers.” It is pointed out that not only is the word for God (Elohim) plural in form, but also the words for “Lord” (Adon) and “Master” (Ba’al) are often used in the plural of a single person. “It might well be that, on a solemn occasion like this, when God is represented as about to create a being in His own image, and to impart to him a share in that fulness of sovereign prerogatives possessed by Himself, He should adopt this unusual and significant mode of expression” (Driver, in loc.). It may, however, be questioned whether the passage in Gen. 11:7 satisfies the exacting requirements of this finely described test. Again, while “the plural of plenitude” in a substantive or adjective is unquestioned, it may be doubted, whether we should be right to explain the 1st pers. plur. of a verb on the ground that the speaker is one to whom the plural of the fulness of power can justly be attributed.

v. It has been explained as the plural of Deliberation. It has been truly remarked that there is more solemnity and dignity in the words, “Let us make man in our own image,” than would have been conveyed in the words, “Let me (or, I will) make man in my own image.” The entire simplicity of this explanation tends to recommend it.

vi. It was the old Jewish explanation that God is here addressing the inhabitants of heaven. In the thought of the devout Israelite, God was One, but not isolated. He was surrounded by the heavenly host (1 Kings 22:19); attended by the Seraphim (Is. 6:1–6); holding His court with “the sons of God” (Job 1:6, 2:1). We are told in a poetical account of the Creation, that when the foundations of the earth were laid, “all the sons of God shouted for joy,” Job 38:7 (cf. Ps. 29:1, 89:7, 103:19–22). It is claimed that, at the climax of the work of Creation, when man is about to be formed, the Almighty admits into the confidence of his Divine Purpose the angelic beings whose nature, in part, man will be privileged to share (Ps. 8:4, 5, cf. Heb. 2:7). At the risk of appearing fanciful, we may remind the reader that the birth of the Second Adam was announced by “the angel,” and “there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (Luke 2:13)

It has been objected against this view (1) that the Priestly Narrator nowhere mentions angels, and (2) that the explanation tends to detract from the dignity of man’s creation. But (1) angels are not here mentioned; and if the plur. indicates their presence in attendance upon the Almighty, the picture which it suggests is in harmony with the religious thought of the Israelites; and (2) the work of creating man is neither delegated to, nor shared with, others. God “created man in his own image” (v. 27); but, before creating him, He had associated with Himself all those who, through participation in image and likeness with Himself, would henceforth be allied to man.

The two last explanations appear to be the most probable.

man] Heb. âdâm. This, the first mention of “man” in Holy Scripture, is spoken by God. It denotes “mankind” generally. Note the plural “they” in the next sentence. On “Adam” as a personal name, see note on 2:7.

in our image, after our likeness] LXX reads “and after our likeness.” Some distinction must clearly be drawn between “image” (Heb. ṣelem; LXX εἰκών; Lat. imago) and “likeness” (Heb. d’mûth; LXX ὁμοίωσις; Lat. similitudo). The former is more permanent, the latter more fleeting. But the distinction cannot be pressed. In v. 1 we read “in the likeness (d’mûth) of God made he him,” and 5:3, “And he (Adam) begat a son in his own likeness, after his own image.” The most we can say is that “image” suggests reproduction in form and substance, physical or spiritual: and “likeness” gives the idea of resemblance and outward similarity. The words contain a truth which was wont to be exaggerated by Jewish and Patristic commentators. Man’s nature is made “in the image of God”; he possesses divine qualities indestructible and inalienable, which no animal possessed. He is made “after the likeness of God”; his character is potentially divine. He is capable of approaching, or receding from, the “likeness” of God. The resemblance can never be perfect: but it can increase, and it can diminish.

The view that there is any reference to the conception of an outward resemblance, in shape or form, to the Hebrew idea of the Personal Deity is wholly improbable, and is contrary to the spirit and teaching of the religion of Israel.

and let them have dominion, &c.] As this dominion is promised to man in virtue of his creation in God’s image, this sentence will helpfully shew that man’s superiority arises, not from physical strength, but through the equipment of his higher nature.

and over all the earth] It seems strange that mention of “the earth” should be interposed between two of the four classes of animals, “the cattle” and “every creeping thing,” over which man should rule. There can hardly be any doubt that the text, which is that also of the LXX and the Latin, has suffered from an early omission. We should read, with the Syriac Peshitto, “over all the beasts of the earth.” The addition of the words “beasts of,” in the sense of “the wild beasts of,” will complete the classification of living creatures, as (1) fish, (2) birds, (3) domestic animals, (4) wild beasts, (5) creeping things. This enumeration reproduces the animals previously mentioned (vv. 20–25).

27. The reiteration of the principal words in the clauses of this verse has something of the rhythm of poetry. Repetition and love of detail are characteristics of the Priestly Code. “Created,” cf. vv. 1, 21 (see notes).

male and female] The distinction of the sexes, which is here given, has been omitted, probably for brevity’s sake, in the mention of the animals.

When, in view of the discoveries of the science of Anthropology, the question is asked whether there was one original pair of human beings, or whether each of the different races, Caucasian, Mongolian, Negro, Red Indian, Australian, &c., originated from one pair, or from groups of pairs, we must answer that such questions do not come within the horizon of thought in our passage. They are to be solved not by Revelation in Holy Scripture, but by the exercise of the gifts of patient enquiry, accurate observation, and sound reasoning. The Hebrew writer has in view a population drawn from a single stock. His account of the origin of Man, applicable to one race, is symbolical of all, if a plurality of origin is to be assumed.

28. The Blessing and the Command

replenish] The word is the same as that used in v. 22 of the fishes, “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters.”

and subdue it] A strong word, denoting subjugation to power. Man’s authority over the creatures of the earth confers upon him responsibility for the exercise of his powers. Supremacy over the fishes, the birds, and the beasts, will require courage, forethought, skill, observation, and judgement. The blessing, therefore, of “fruitfulness” is incomplete, until reinforced by the commission so to exercise the faculties as to ensure intellectual growth. In this connexion, compare Ray Lankester (“Rede Lecture, 1905”), “What we call the will or volition of Man … has become a power in nature, an imperium in imperio, which has profoundly modified not only Man’s own history, but that of the whole living world, and the face of the planet on which he lives.”

29. Provision of Food

In this verse God gives food to mankind consisting of the seed-bearing herbs and the fruit of trees. By comparison with 9:3, we see that the writer believed that, until after the Flood, mankind subsisted upon a purely vegetable diet. It may be asked how, if this were the case, man had the opportunity of exercising his dominion over fish, birds, and beasts: if he did not wish to eat them, neither would he wish to kill them. The truth seems to be that, according to the P version of Hebrew tradition, the first generations of mankind were intended to live, without bloodshed or violence, in an ideal condition, like that predicted by Isaiah (11:6–9), “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.” The prophet’s words, “a little child shall lead them,” imply a dominion over the animal world which does not rest upon force.

to every beast of the earth] God ordains that the wild beasts, the birds, and all living creatures, shall have the leaves for their food. The words, “every green herb,” would be more literally “all the green, or verdure, of the herbs.” A distinction is, therefore, drawn between the food ordained for mankind and the food ordained for the animals. Man is to have the herb bearing seed and the fruit of the trees (v. 29): the animals are to feed on the grass and the leaves.

for meat] This expression, here and in the previous verse, is liable to be misunderstood by English readers. The Hebrew means “for food.” The word “meat” is an old English term for “food.” Cf. St Luke 24:41 A.V. “He said unto them, Have ye here any meat?” R.V. “Have ye here anything to eat?”

It may be asked whether we are to understand that, according to Gen. 1, the nature of animals was different at the first from what it became afterwards, and that they did not prey upon one another. The reply is that this was evidently the belief of the Israelite, as represented in this chapter. Like other features of the picture, it is childlike and idealized. Palaeontology has demonstrated, that, from the earliest geological period at which animal life can be shewn to have existed, the animals preyed upon one another. From the earliest days of animal life nature has been “red in tooth and claw.”

and, behold, it was very good] The work of the six days’ Creation having been completed, God, as it were, contemplates the universe both in its details and in its entirety. That which He saw to be “good,” on each separate day, was but a fragment; that which He sees to be “very good,” on the sixth day, is the vast ordered whole, in which the separate parts are combined. The Divine approval of the material universe constitutes one of the most instructive traits of the Hebrew cosmogony. According to it, matter is not something hostile to God, independent of Him, or inherently evil, but made by Him, ordered by Him, good in itself, and good in its relation to the purpose and plan of the Creator. The adjective “good” should not therefore be limited in meaning to the sense of “suitable,” or “fitting.” There is nothing “evil” in the Divinely-created universe: it is “very good” (LXX καλὰ λίαν: Lat. valde bona).

Special Note a, on 1:26

Professor Davidson, On the plural form of the word Elohim.

“The plural form of the word Elohim might be supposed to have some bearing on the question of unity. And, indeed, by many it has been supposed to bear testimony to the plurality of gods originally worshipped among the Semitic peoples; and by others, who seem to consider the name Elohim part of God’s revelation of Himself, to the plurality of persons in the Godhead. The real force of the plural termination … is not easy, indeed, to discover. But a few facts may lead us near it. In Ethiopic the name of God is Amlāk, a plural form also of a root allied to melek—a king. All Shemitic languages use the plural as a means of heightening the idea of the singular; the precise kind of heightening has to be inferred from the word. Thus waterמַיִם—is plural, from the fluidity and multiplicity of its parts; the heavensשָׁמַיִם—from their extension. Of a different kind is the plural of adonlord, in Hebrew, which takes plural suffixes except in the first person singular. Of this kind, too, is the plural of Baal, even in the sense of owner, as when Isaiah uses the phrase בְּעָלָיו אֵבוּם (1:3). Of the same kind, also, is the plural teraphim, penates, consisting of a single image. And of this kind probably is the plural Elohim—a plural not numerical, but simply enhancive of the idea of might. Thus among the Israelites the might who was God was not an ordinary might, but one peculiar, lofty, unique. Though the word be plural, in the earliest written Hebrew its predicate is almost universally singular. Only when used of the gods of the nations is it construed with a plural verb; or, sometimes, when the reference is to the general idea of the Godhead. This use with a singular predicate or epithet seems to show that the plural form is not a reminiscence of a former Polytheism. The plural expressed a plenitude of might. And as there seems no trace of a Polytheism in the name, neither can it with any probability be supposed to express a plurality of persons in the Godhead. For it cannot be shown that the word is itself part of God’s revelation; it is a word of natural growth adopted into revelation, like other words of the Hebrew language. And the usage in the words baal, adon, rab, and such like, similar to it in meaning, leads us to suppose that the plural is not numerical, as if mights, but merely intensifying the idea of might. Nor can it be shown to be probable that the doctrine of a plurality of persons should have been taught early in the history of revelation. What the proneness of mankind to idolatry rendered imperative above all and first of all, was strenuous teaching of the Divine Unity.” Davidson’s Theology of the O.T. pp. 99, 100 (T. and T. Clark).

Special Note b

Note on the Jewish Interpretation of 1:26

(a) Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, “And the Lord said to the angels who ministered before Him, who had been created in the second day of the creation of the world, Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness.”

(b) Pesiḳta 34a (ed. Buber), “God took counsel with the ministering angels, and said unto them, Let us make, &c.”

(c) Philo (i. 556, ed. Mangey), “The Father of the Universe discourses to His own Hosts” (ταῖς ἑαυτοῦ δυνάμεσιν).

(d) Rashi, Commentary.

Humilitatem Sancti illius Benedicti hinc discimus, quoniam homo ad similitudinem angelorum creatus fuit et illi erga eum invidia incitati fuerunt, idcirco Deus cum illis consultavit.… Etiamsi angeli non opem tulerint ei Deo in illius creatione … non omittit tamen Scriptura, quominus doceat morem hominum modumque humilitatis, ut nimirum is, qui major est, consultet et facultatem impetret a minore, quod si scripsisset Moses faciam hominem, non docuisset nos, quod Deus locutus sit cum domo judicii sui; sed cum seipso; responsionem vero Epicuraeis opponendam scripsit Moses in latere ejus, “et creavit,” inquiens, hominem; non vero scripsit; “et creaverunt.”

Ed. Breithaupt, i. pp. 15, 17.

Ch. 2:1–4a. The Seventh Day: (a) The Cessation from Work; (b) The Hallowing of the Day

were finished] In these verses the repetition of the words “finish,” “work,” “seventh day,” “made,” is probably intended to heighten the solemnity connected with the seventh day; see also note on 1:27, and Introduction, on the characteristics of P.

and all the host of them] The word “host” is noteworthy. The Hebrew is ṣâbâ, “army,” the plural of which is the word “Sabaoth” (= ṣ’bâôth = “hosts”) familiar to us in the Te Deum. Here, as applied to the countless forces of the universe, its use is metaphorical. In the ancient world a great army represented the ideal of an organized multitude: and the designation of “host” (ṣâbâ) is often given in the O.T. to the heavenly bodies (e.g. 2 Kings 17:16). The LXX ὁ κόσμος αὐτῶν, = “their order, beauty, or array,” is reproduced in the Lat. ornatus eorum = “their splendour,” missing the significance of the original. Upon this error of the Vulgate St Thomas Aquinas based his division of the works of Creation into “opera distinctionis” and “opera ornatus.”

on the seventh day] Some misunderstanding arose in very early times in consequence of these words. Jealous for the sanctity of the Sabbath, men said, “No, not on the seventh day, but on the sixth day, God finished the work of creation.” So we find “on the sixth day” is the reading of the Samaritan, the LXX, and the Syriac Peshitto. The mistake was not unnatural: it was not perceived that the conclusion of work was identical with the cessation from work. God wrought no work on the seventh day; therefore, it is said, He brought His work to an end on the seventh day. The reading, “on the sixth day,” may be dismissed as an erroneous correction made in the interests of keeping the Sabbath. All reference to the sixth day was concluded in ch. 1:31.

his work] LXX τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ, “his works.” The same Hebrew word as in the Fourth Commandment, Ex. 20:9, “all thy work”; it denotes not so much the “result” of labour, as its “process,” or “occupation.” Driver renders by “business.”

rested] LXX κατέπαυσε = “ceased,” Lat. requierit. Heb. shâbath has strictly the sense of “ceasing,” or “desisting.” It is this thought rather than that of “resting” after labour, which is here prominent. Elsewhere, the idea that God rested on the seventh day, is more directly expressed, e.g. Ex. 31:17, “And on the seventh day he (the Lord) rested (shâbath, ‘desisted’) and was refreshed.” The idea of “cessation” from the employment of the six days suggested the conception of “rest,” which is mentioned, both in Ex. 20:11 and 31:17, as the sanction for the observance of the Sabbath. Rest in the best sense is not idleness, but alteration in the direction of activity.

And God blessed the seventh day) It was the belief of the devout Israelite that in some mysterious way God at the beginning conferred His special favour upon the seventh day. The writer does not in this passage mention the name “Sabbath,” but the reference to the Israelite Sabbath is indisputable. A play on the word “Sabbath “is evidently intended by the use of the word shâbath. The Hebrew cosmogony traced back the observance of the Sabbath to the Divine example on the seventh day of the creative week. Whether its observance was followed by the Israelites before the time of Moses, has been much disputed. No reference to it occurs in the Patriarchal narratives: but the intervals of seven days occurring in the story of the Flood (7:10, 8:10, 12 J) may indicate the belief in the primitive recognition of the “week” as a sacred division of time. The reference to the Sabbath in Ex. 16:23 ff. has led many commentators to suppose that the opening word (“Remember”) of the Fourth Commandment assumes the primitive recognition of the institution. See Special Note.

hallowed) viz. separated from common and profane usage. LXX ἡγίασεν: Lat. sanctificavit. This is the first mention of the idea of holiness, which in Holy Scripture occupies such an important place in the description of religious worship and godly life.

We may be unable fully to discern what was intended by the writer, when he spoke of God “hallowing” or “making separate” the seventh day. But it conveys to us the thought that God from the first, set His seal upon “time” as well as His blessing upon matter; and this consecration of the seventh day should serve as the continual reminder that as “the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” so time is of the Lord and the opportunities thereof. The Sabbath is the sacrament of time: its rest is the symbol of the consecration of work. The worship of the Creator made a demand for the consecration of time as well as of place. Notice the absence of the formula, “There was evening and there was morning, the seventh day.” This omission led some to suppose that the seventh, or rest, day of God is not yet ended; and that, when the work of Creation was finished, there began on the seventh day the different task of the maintenance of the universe. But it seems more probable that by the reference to the seventh day in v. 2, and by the blessing of the seventh day in v. 3, the writer intended that the seven days should be regarded as completed, and as presenting the Divine type for every week of seven days. After the seventh day came another phase of Divine activity, the unceasing operation of Divine laws. The Immanence of Creative Love and Wisdom needs to be acknowledged no less than their Transcendence; cf., especially, John 5:17, “My Father worketh even until now, and I work.” In that conception of Divine work, there is no room for the thought of cessation.

4a. These are the generations … created] These words, as they stand here, seem to form a summary of the preceding account of the Creation. Elsewhere, however, the phrase “These are the generations, &c.” is the formula employed in P as a heading, title, or superscription, to introduce the passage that follows. Cf. 5:1, “The generations of Adam,” 6:9 (Noah), 10:1 (The Sons of Noah), 11:10 (Shem), 27 (Terah), 25:12 (Ishmael). The conjecture has been made that the formula “These are the generations, &c.” originally stood at the beginning of ch. 1, and was transferred to its present place, either, in order that the book might begin with the word b’rêshîth (= “In the beginning”), or to obtain a sentence which would serve both as an epitome of the opening section and as a link with the one that follows.

generations] Heb. tô-l’-dôth = “successions by descent,” usually meaning “the chronicles,” or “genealogies,” of persons and families, is here metaphorically applied to “the heaven and the earth” in the sense of the “history” of their origin and their offspring. LXX, therefore, gives an explanatory rendering, αὕτη ἡ βίβλος γενέσεως οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς.

It is quite a different word from that found, e.g. in 15:16, “in the fourth generation” (Heb. dôr, LXX γενέα).

created] This word closes the first section of the book, and there should be a full stop after it. The next section, giving another narrative, at of the creation of man and of Paradise, opens with the words “In the day that.”

The first section has been derived from the materials of the Priestly Code (P), the second is from the Prophetic Writing (J). The styles which characterize the two sources offer a marked contrast.

Ch. 2:4b–3:24 (J). The Story of Paradise: I. The Creation of Man (2:4b–25). II. The Fall of Man (3:1–24)

I.    The Creation of Man (2:4b–25).

    4b–7.    The Creation of Man.

    8–9.    The Garden in Eden.

    10–14.    Its geographical situation.

    15–17.    The Trees of Life and of the Knowledge of good and evil.

    18–20.    The Creation of the Animals.

    21–25.    The Creation of Woman.

In this passage the compiler has had before him another account of the Creation. The earliest part dealing with the formation of the earth, the heavens, and the seas, he has omitted. The account in the previous chapter was evidently deemed to be sufficient. The description, however, of the origin of man and woman and of the animals is quite different from that given in ch. 1. The narrative goes into greater details; and events are described in a different order. It cannot escape the reader’s notice that, whereas in ch. 1 all the living creatures are created before man and woman, in ch. 2 man is first created (vv. 6, 7), the animals are created afterwards as companions to him (vv. 18–20), and that woman, last of all, is created out of his rib to be his wife (vv. 21–25). The picture, therefore, presented in this chapter comes from a different source from that in ch. 1; and the fact is shewn not only by the variety in the treatment of the subject matter, but also by the unmistakable variety in the style and vocabulary. Some of the more noteworthy instances will be commented upon.

4b–7. The Creation of Man

in the day that] There is no allusion here to the Days of Creation. It is simply the vivid Hebrew idiom for “at the time when.”

the Lord God] The Hebrew words “Jahveh Elohim” are used in this section for the Almighty. On the Sacred Names, see Introduction. The use of JHVH, the Name of the God of Israel (Ex. 3) which the Jews in reverence forbore to pronounce, and which received, in the 16th century, the wholly erroneous pronunciation of “Jehovah,” is one of the characteristics of the writing of J. In the previous section, 1:1–2:4a, the Sacred Name is “Elohim” = “God”; and the use of “Elohim” is prevalent in the P Narratives of Gen. In the present section, 2:4b–3:24, the Sacred Name is a combination of Jahveh and Elohim, i.e. Jehovah (= Lord) and “God.” In the next section, the story of Cain and Abel, Jehovah alone is used; throughout the rest of Genesis we find either Jehovah or Elohim alone. The combination of the two Sacred Names is elsewhere of exceedingly rare occurrence. How to account for it in the present passage, is a problem to which no certain answer can be given. The theory that “God” (Elohim) is used for the God of Nature, and Lord (Jehovah) for the God of Revelation, in unsupported by the facts: e.g. “God” (Elohim) is the name used of the Deity in ch. 17 at the establishment of the covenant of circumcision: the Lord (Jahveh) is the name used at the destruction of the cities or the Plain (19:1–28, see note on 19:29). There seems no reason to assign any doctrinal ground for the exceptional usage.

It should most probably be attributed to the handiwork of the compiler. On the first occasion in which the sacred title of the God or Israel was used, he wished to emphasize the fact that Jehovah and the Elohim of Creation were one and the same.

Another suggestion has been made, that the Paradise Narrative was current in two versions, in one of which the Sacred Name was Jahveh, in the other Elohim, and that the compiler who was acquainted with both versions left a trace of the fact in the combined names. But the compiler has not resorted to any such expedient elsewhere.

earth and heaven] An unusual order of words, found only in Ps. 148:13.

And no plant, &c.] If, as is possible, vv. 5 and 6 are a parenthesis then v. 7 carries on the sentence of v. 4b. The whole sentence would then run, “At the time when Jehovah Elohim made earth and heaven (there was as yet no plant of the field … face of the ground), Jehovah Elohim formed man.” But this arrangement is too cumbrous to be probable. Moreover, the state of things described in vv. 5 and 6 is evidently one of considerable duration; it intervenes between the making of the earth and the heavens (v. 4b) and the formation of man (v. 7). It is better to regard v. 5 as the apodosis to v. 4b, “At the time when Jehovah Elohim made, &c., (5) there was as yet no plant, &c., (6) but a mist (or, flood) used to come up, &c.”

plant of the field … herb of the field] The word “plant “is the same in the original as that rendered “shrub” in Gen. 21:15, the stunted growth of the desert under which Hagar cast her child, and “bushes” in Job 30:4, 7. The “herb” is the vegetation useful for food and requiring cultivation. There was no “plant” or “bush,” because the Lord God had not yet caused it to rain: there was no “herb,” because there was no man to prepare the ground. In the absence of rain and of tillage there was no vegetation. The ground originally was desert, without tree, bush, or grass.

there went up] or “there used to go up,” i.e. periodically. The frequentative idea of the verb is given in the LXX ἀνέβαινεν, Lat. ascendebat.

a mist] Heb. ‘êd, a word found elsewhere in the O.T. only in Job 36:27, where it is rendered “vapour.” Here the meaning is not certain: the versions (LXX πηγή: Lat. fons: Targum “cloud”) reflect the doubt. The English versions follow the Targum. Recently, Assyriologists have compared the Babylonian êdû, meaning a “flood” or “overflowing.” It is possible that the rendering “spring” or “stream” maybe more accurate than “mist”; that in Job 36:27 ‘êd may denote the “source” of the waters above the heavens; and that here it may refer to the hidden source of the rivers of the world. No account is given of the origin of rain.

watered] Literally, “gave to drink”; an expression better suited to a “stream” than to a “mist”: cf. v. 10, where it is used of a river. “The ground,” the face of which was watered by it, was “the cultivable soil” (adâmah).

formed] A different word from that used in 1:1 and 27, “created,” or in 1:26, “made.” The metaphor is that of the potter shaping and moulding the clay, LXX ἔπλασεν, Lat. formavit. As applied to the Creator, the metaphor is a favourite one; cf. Isai. 45:9, Jer. 18:1–5, Wisd. 15:7, Rom. 9:20–24.

See Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra, “Aye, note that Potter’s wheel, That metaphor, &c.”

man] Heb. âdâm. Man was popularly thought to be so called because taken from the adâmah, “the cultivated ground,” to which he is to return at death (3:19), and which he is to cultivate during life (3:23). It is impossible in English to give any equivalent to this play upon the names for “man” and “ground.”

In this verse and elsewhere, where the Heb. âdâm (= man) occurs with the def. article (hâ-âdâm), there is no reference to the proper name “Adam.” See note on v. 16.

of the dust of the ground] These words describe the Hebrew belief concerning the physical structure of man. It was seen that after death the bodily frame was reduced, by dissolution, into dust: it was, therefore, assumed that that frame had at the first been built up by God out of dust. For other passages illustrating this belief, cf. Gen. 3:19, 18:27, Ps. 90:3, 104:29, 1 Cor. 15:47. We find the same idea in the Babylonian myth, where man is made out of earth mingled with the blood of the God Marduk, and in the Greek myth of Prometheus and Pandora.

breathed … life] The preceding clause having explained man’s bodily structure, the present one explains the origin of his life. His life is not the product of his body, but the gift of God’s breath or spirit.

At death the breath (ruaḥ) left man’s body; hence it was assumed, that, at the first, the mystery of life had been imparted to man by the breath (ruaḥ) of God Himself. Through life, man became “a living soul,” (nephesh), and, as “a living soul,” shared his life with the animals. But man alone received his life from “the breath of God.” It is this breathing (n’shâmâh) of life (LXX πνοὴ ζωης: Lat. spiraculum vitae) which imparts to man that which is distinctive of his higher principle of being, as compared with the existence of the animals, cf. v. 19. It would seem from Job 34:14, 15 that one phase of Hebrew belief was (1) that at death the flesh of man turned again unto dust; (2) that God took back unto Himself His breath (ruaḥ) which He had given; (3) that the nephesh, or soul, departed into the Sheol, the region of the dead.

For the picture here given of vitality imparted to man by the breath breathed by God into man’s nostrils, cf. Job 27:3, “The spirit (or breath) of God is in my nostrils.”

We should compare the expression “breathed into” with the words in St John’s Gospel 20:22. There the symbolical act of our Lord derives significance from this verse. Christ who is “the New Man,” Himself imparts the life-giving Spirit; “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”

8–9. The Garden in Eden

a garden] More strictly “an enclosure.” LXX παράδεισον, Lat. paradisum, a word borrowed from the Persian, and meaning “a park-like enclosure.” Its use here has given rise to the Christian metaphorical use of the word “Paradise.” “The word is of Iranian origin. In Avesta it is pairi-daêza encircling wall’ (Vend. iii. 18). It passed into Neo-Babylonian, Aramaic, post-Exilic Hebrew, Neo-Hebrew, Armenian, Persian, Kurdish, Greek, and Arabic as a word for a park or splendid garden. In the O.T. it is found in Neh. 2:8, Cant. 4:13, Eccles. 2:5″ (Encycl. Rel. and Eth. vol. ii. p. 705).

eastward] The point of view is not that of the Babylonian, but of the Israelite, who regarded the East, and, in particular, Babylonia, as the cradle of man’s earliest civilization. Notice here the quite general description of the site of the “garden.” For its more minute definition, see vv. 10–15. LXX κατὰ ἀνατολάς: Vulg. a principio. The Hebrew, when speaking or writing, is mentally facing East. “Eastward” is the same as “on the side fronting you.”

in Eden] Eden is not the name of the “garden,” but of the country or district in which Jehovah planted his “garden.” Eden in Hebrew means “delight,” or “happiness”; and the Israelite naturally associated this meaning of the word “Eden” with the dwelling place of the first man and woman, because this auspicious name seemed appropriate to the Garden of Jehovah. Hence we find the Garden of God spoken of as the place of fertility, beauty, and delight, Isa. 51:3, Ezek. 28:13, 31:8, 9, 36:35, Joel 2:3.

“In Eden”; so, rightly, LXX ἐν Ἐδέμ. The Lat. “voluptatis,” = “of pleasure,” represents a popular misapprehension, not recognizing it as a proper name.

Assyriologists point out that the Assyrian word edinnu, meaning “a plain” or “steppe,” was applied to the Euphrates Valley. They suggest that the “garden” lay in this region. The Hebrew narrative, however, evidently contemplates a fruitful enclosure, not a plain: the name “Eden” is chosen because of its auspicious meaning in Hebrew, while the fact that in sound it reproduced the Babylonian designation of a remote Eastern, or Mesopotamian, region, made it appear all the more appropriate.

And out of the ground, &c.] The characteristic feature of the “garden,” or “enclosure,” is not its flowers, but its trees. This evident, also, from the traditional belief as to the Garden, which is reproduced in Ezek. 31:8, 9. To the Oriental, the large well-grown tree was an especial object of reverence (“pleasant to the sight”): and man was to live on the fruit of the trees (“good for food”). It is implied that the trees of the “garden,” like the man who is put into it, were from the first fully grown.

the tree of life] There are two wonder-working trees in the “garden.” One is called “the tree of life,” whose fruit imparts immortality to those who eat it (cf. 3:22–24): the other is called the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” whose fruit conveys moral discernment. These gifts of knowledge and of immortality are the special prerogatives of Jehovah (3:5, 22).

The mention of the two trees in this verse comes in a little abruptly. “The tree of life” is spoken of as “in the midst of the garden”; “the tree of knowledge” is then mentioned, but without any description of its position. In v. 17 the Lord God forbids the man to eat of “the tree of knowledge”; but does not mention “the tree of life.” In 3:3 the woman refers to “the tree which is in the midst of the garden,” as if there was only one tree that had been forbidden to them, and v. 5 shews it is “the tree of knowledge.” It is probable that we have the trace of some little confusion between two Hebrew traditions about the sacred trees. The mention of “the tree of life” has here, and in 3:22, 24, been added to that of “the tree of knowledge.” At any rate, in this verse, “the tree of life” is given the place belonging to “the tree of knowledge” which is “in the midst of the garden.” The story of the Temptation and the Fall turns on the tradition, according to which there was one tree, that “of the knowledge of good and evil,” “in the midst of the garden.” The expression “tree of life” was used as a common metaphor of health and fruitfulness in Hebrew language, cf. Prov. 3:18, “She (Wisdom) is a tree of life”; 11:30, “the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.”

the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] What is signified by this is doubtful. Some say it is the knowledge which infancy lacks and experience acquires, cf. Deut.1:39, “Your children which this day have no knowledge of good or of evil.” Judging by the context we should rather identify it with moral judgement: the fruit produces the exercise of conscience, which is accompanied by the realization of evil, though not necessarily by the forfeiture of innocence. See Special Note on Chap. 3.

Palms as sacred trees are frequent objects of representation in Assyrian and Babylonian art.

On the possible connexion of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” with the date palm, see Barton’s Semitic Origins, pp. 93–95.

10–14. A Geographical Description of the Garden

This is very probably a later insertion. It interrupts the sequence of thought.

And a river went out] The description of the river in this verse is as follows: (1) it took its rise in the land of Eden; (2) it flowed through the garden, and irrigated it; (3) after passing through the garden, it separated into four branches, or, as they are here called, “heads.”

to water] The same word as in v. 6, “a mist … watered the whole face of the ground.”

The account which follows (11–14) is irreconcilable with scientific geography. But the locality of a garden planted by the Lord God, containing two wonder-working trees, is evidently not to be looked for on maps. In the description of the four rivers, we must remember that the Israelites possessed only a very vague knowledge of distant lands. They depended upon the reports of travellers who possessed no means of accurate survey. Mediaeval maps often present the most fantastic and arbitrary arrangement of rivers and seas to meet the conjectures of the cartographist. We need not be surprised, if the early traditions of the Hebrews claimed that the four greatest known rivers of the world had branched off from the parent stream, which, rising in Eden, had passed through the garden of the Lord God. The four rivers here mentioned are referred to in the order of Pishon, Tigris, Euphrates, and Gihon in Ecclus. 24:25–27.

“Alexander the Great believed he had found the sources of the Nile in the Indus, because of the crocodiles and beans he saw there (Arrian, vi. i. 2 ff.; Str. xv. i. 25) … Pausanias records the tradition that ‘the same Nile is the river Euphrates, which was lost in a lake, and reemerged as the Nile in the remote part of Ethiopia’ ” (Gordon, p. 278). When such views of geography were held by the most enlightened Greeks, we need wonder at nothing in the primitive traditions of Palestine.

Pishon] The name of this river does not occur elsewhere in the Bible except in Ecclus. 24:25. What river was intended, we can only conjecture, (a) from the description of its course, and (b) from the names of the rivers with which it is classed, two being the Tigris and the Euphrates. It is described as “compassing,” that is, encircling, “the whole land of Havilah.” The identification of Havilah is much controverted. In the present day scholars are of opinion that the name probably denotes a region either in N.E., or in S., Arabia. It is mentioned again in Gen. 10:7, 29, 25:18, passages in which Arabia seems to be indicated. Havilah is further called a land “where there is gold.” Arabia, in ancient times, was famous for its gold.

The river which would encircle Havilah is, therefore, quite probably rightly identified by P. Haupt, the Assyriologist, with the Persian Gulf and the sea that surrounded Arabia, on the east.

Josephus identifies it with the “Indus.”

bdellium] LXX ἄνθραξ: Lat. bdellium. In Numb. 11:7, “manna” is compared with “bdellium“; where the LXX gives κρύσταλλος. Possibly it may be identified with an aromatic transparent resin, obtained from balsam (balsamodendron mukul), and found in Arabia as well as in India, Bactria and Africa. The Hebrew name b’dôlaḥ is probably a foreign word. Another rendering, “pearls” (which are abundantly found in the Persian Gulf), would be more poetical, and possibly more appropriate for comparison, with “manna”; but we can only conjecture.

the onyx stone] or beryl. Hebrew Shoham mentioned elsewhere, Ex. 25:7, Job 28:16. A precious stone is clearly intended; possibly = “carbuncle.” Assyriologists have identified it with an Assyrian word Samdu; but what Samdu was, is not known. Sayce conjectures “turquoise”; Haupt “pearl.”

Gihon] This river is not mentioned again by the same name in the Bible, except in Ecclus. 24:27. The student will be careful not to confound it with the Gihon of 1 Kings 1:33, a spring in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. It is here described as encircling “the whole land of Cush.” “Cush” in the Bible generally denotes Ethiopia (but cf. Gen. 10:8 note); and by Ethiopia would be signified Nubia, the Soudan, and Upper Egypt, a great tract of country watered by the Nile, cf. Isa. 18:1. Hence, though the description “that compasseth the whole land of Cush” is fanciful, it seems very probable that the Gihon here means the Nile. The Nile is generally called in the Bible ye‘or (cf. Gen. 41:1), and sometimes Shihor (cf. Isa. 23:3, Jer. 2:18). See note 41:1. For Cushites in David’s time, cf. 2 Sam. 18:21.

Hiddekel] Tigris. The Assyrian name is “Idiklat,” or “Diklat,” the old Persian “Tigra,” whence the Greek “Tigris” (modern Digle). It is mentioned in the Bible elsewhere only in Dan. 10:4 and Ecclus. 24:25. This famous river rises not far from the source of the Euphrates, and flows at first east from Diarbekr and unites with the Bohtan Tsckai, after which it flows south-east. It approaches the Euphrates at Bagdad, but continues a separate course until it unites at Korna with that river, and enters the Persian Gulf as the Schatt-el-Arab. In earlier times the two rivers entered the sea at different points. The Tigris was so called from an old Persian word meaning “arrow,” and probably because of its swiftness.

in front of Assyria] The Hebrew expression rendered “in front of” generally denotes “to the east of,” cf. v. 8, 4:16, 12:8 notes. The Hebrew standpoint is always that of a person facing east. That which is in front is east: towards his right hand is the south, towards his left the north, at his back the west. It is objected that Assyria was a country, through which the Tigris flowed, and that, as Assyrian territory lay on the east as well as the west bank of the Tigris, it would not be correct to describe the Tigris as “that which goeth towards the east of Assyria.” Hence Sayce conjectures that we should here understand, not the country “Assyria,” but the country’s old capital “Asshur” which gave its name to the country, and which lay on the west bank of the Tigris. But Asshur, the city, is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible; presumably, therefore, it was little known to the Hebrews, and was not likely to be mentioned in a geographical description. On the other hand, “Asshur” is the regular Hebrew designation of the country “Assyria”; the mention here of “Assyria” is parallel to that of “Cush” in the preceding verse. There seems no sufficient reason for doubting that the name “Asshur” is here used, in its usual Biblical application, for the land of Assyria. If so, the geographical description of the Tigris may not be strictly accurate. Considering its remoteness from Palestine, this need not surprise us, especially in a writing dating from a period previous to the active Assyrian interference in the course of Israelite affairs.

Euphrates] Heb. Prath. Assyrian “Puratu,” old Persian Ufrâtū, whence the Greek and Latin “Euphrates.” The Euphrates rises in the mountains near Erzerum, and, after following a tortuous course through the Taurus Mts., flows first in a southerly, and then, from Balis, in a S.E. direction, uniting with the Tigris before entering the Persian Gulf.

The Israelites seem to have regarded the Euphrates as “the river par excellence.” Hence “the River,” as a proper name, in Ex. 23:31, 1 Kings 4:21, 24, Ps. 72:8, 80:11, Isai. 8:7, Zech. 9:10.

15. This verse resumes the subject matter of v. 9, which has been interrupted by the description of the rivers.

to dress it and to keep it] The Lord God puts man into the garden for a life, not of indolence, but of labour. “To dress it,” that is to cultivate the soil, tend and prune the trees: “to keep it,” that is to defend it from depredation by animals, or from the evils arising from unchecked luxuriance. In other words, he is given, from the first, his work to do by which he is (1) to improve his surroundings, (2) to provide for the necessities of life, (3) to protect from waste or loss that which is committed to his care. This work will exact abundant physical effort; it will exercise his powers of observation and judgement; it will furnish him with food for his body, and with thought for his mind.

Notice, that the garden requires to be dressed and kept; it is not a place of spontaneous perfection. Man in the garden is to work, to take trouble, to practise forethought, to exercise solicitude and sympathy for the objects of his toil. “Paradise” is not a place for indolence and self-indulgence.

16. Here, as in 1:29, man receives a command to eat the fruit of the trees: but this command is to receive one special limitation.

“man,” LXX Ἀδάμ = “Adam,” as a proper name, wrongly: see on v. 7.

of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] See above, on v. 9. Here only one tree is mentioned, as in 3:3; and it seems not unlikely that the mention of “the tree of life” did not belong to the main original version of the story, but was derived from a separate source.

thou shalt not eat of it] In this prohibition man is apprised of another element in the discipline to which he is subjected in the garden of the Lord God. In v. 15 it is his physical and intellectual powers which are to be exercised: in this verse he receives warning of a moral discipline. His moral being is to be tested by a simple injunction for which no reason is assigned. No hardship is imposed: but a limitation to self-gratification is required. He who makes the requisition has given freely the enjoyment of everything beside. Man’s character is to be tested in the simplest manner. Will he shew obedience to the Divine will and trust in the Divine goodness?

in the day that … die] Literally, in the day that Adam ate of the fruit, he did not die. This is one of the minor inconsistencies in the story which are not explained for us. Either we are to assume that, in some fuller version of it, the Lord God was described as “repenting” of the sentence of immediate death, as changing His mind and sparing man in His mercy: or the words “in the day, &c.” are to be regarded as metaphorical, and the doom, “thou shalt surely die,” merely means “thou shalt become mortal.”

We must not infer from this verse that the Lord God was considered, to have made man other than mortal. It is clear from 3:22, that man was created a mortal being. Perhaps, in one version of the story, he was intended to eat of the tree of life “and live for ever.”

18–25. The Creation of Animals and of Woman

It is not good, &c.] Man is created a social animal. His full powers cannot be developed by physical and mental work alone; nor his moral being by self-discipline in solitude. His faculties and his character require to be expanded and beautified by the duties of domestic and social life, as a member of a family, as a friend, as a fellow-worker, as a citizen. To be alone is not “good”; it does not promote his fullest life, or his best service.

an help meet for him] “meet”: or answering to. The word “meet” means “suitable,” or “adapted to.” The Lord God will make for man a “help” corresponding to his moral and intellectual nature, supplying what he needs, the counterpart of his being.

“Help meet,” which has become a recognized English word, fails to give the full sense of this passage from which it is derived. Man will find help from that which is in harmony with his own nature, and, therefore, able adequately to sympathise with him in thought and interests. It is not identity, but harmony, of character which is suggested. The word “help” in the Hebrew is ‘êzer, the same as is found in Ebenezer (1 Sam. 7:12): LXX βοηθόν: Lat. adjutorium.

“Meet for him” is lit. “as over against him.” LXX κατʼ αὐτόν, Vulg. simile sibi.

Observe that the versions have “let us make,” LXX ποιήσωμεν, Lat. faciamus, in imitation of 1:26, but inaccurately.

And out of the ground] The animals also (LXX adds ἔτι; so also Sam.) are “formed,” or “moulded,” out of the ground, like man: see v. 7. They are brought into man’s presence to see whether they could be the needed help to him. Only the beasts of the field and the birds are mentioned in this account.

to see what he would call them] The names which man will give them will determine their use and position in reference to man’s own nature. Their names would reflect the impression produced on the man’s mind. A “name,” in the estimation of the Hebrew, conveyed the idea of personality and character. It was more than a mere label. The animals, in this account, are created after man, and in definite relation to him; an entirely different representation from that in ch. 1.

the man gave names] We have here the exercise of man’s powers of discrimination and classification. This is the birth of science. Man’s first use of speech is in the naming of animals. The names describe their character or appearance. From the instance given in v. 23 of a name thus applied, it is clear that primaeval man was supposed to speak in the Hebrew language.

but for man] From this clause it appears, as indeed is shewn by vv. 18, 19, that the animals on being formed were brought to the man, in order that, if it were possible, some amongst them might be the help that his nature needed. The passage implies that the nature of the animals had a kinship with that of man; but, while full of sympathy with the animal world, it implies that companionship, in the truest sense, was not to be found by man in creatures destitute of the higher prerogatives of human nature. “An help meet for man” must be on a level with him in feeling, in intellect, and reason.

for man] Not, as R.V. marg., for Adam. We should undoubtedly here read “for the man” (lâ’âdâm) in accordance with the general usage in this section. The LXX introduces the proper name at v. 16, Lat. Vulg. at v. 19: both ignore the definite article here and in vv. 21, 22, 23.

21–22. The Creation of Woman

The description in these verses is remarkable for its delicacy and beauty. Nothing could be more clear than that we are dealing with the poetry of symbolism, not with the record of literal fact.

deep sleep] The word is used in Gen. 15:12, 1 Sam. 26:12, Isai. 29:10 indicating a mysterious heavy sleep sent by God. Heb. tardêmah, LXX (ἔκστασις, Lat. sopor. The mystery of Divine working is thus hidden from man’s perceptions.

one of his ribs] Symbolizing the closeness and intimacy of the relation between the sexes. Woman, formed from the side of man, is to be the “help meet for him.” As his own flesh, he is to watch over and protect the woman. The story is a parable interpreting the instinct of love.

It is man’s description, respecting the origin of woman, as of one made for man, after man, and subordinate to him. The “rib” is mentioned presumably, because “ribs” are comparatively numerous, and it was thought that one could be spared without structural loss.

made he] Heb. “builded He,” so LXX ᾠκοδόμησεν, Lat. aedificavit: a different word from that in vv. 7–19.

This is now, &c.] The exclamation of joy and wonder is expressed in the rhythmical language of poetry. It is as if the man, after passing in review the animals, recognizes instantaneously in woman the fulfilment of his hope. “This is now” is equivalent to “here at last”; the German “Diese endlich.”

bone of my bones] A strong metaphorical phrase to denote that the woman is different from all the animals, and is absolutely one with the man. For similar expressions used of near relationship, compare 29:14, 37:27; Jud. 9:2; 2 Sam 5:1, 19:12, 13; 1 Chron. 11:1. This proverbial expression may have furnished the symbolism of the story.

she shall be called, &c.] The marg. by pointing out that the Hebrew for “woman” is Isshah, and for “man” Ish, shews the resemblance in the sound of the two words. This is fairly reproduced in the English words “Woman” and “Man”; and in Luther’s rendering “Männin” and “Mann.” The LXX is unable to reproduce it. The Latin attempts it with questionable success, haec vocabitur virago, quoniam de viro sumpta est.

Instead of “from man.” mê-ish. LXX and Targ. read “from her husband” = mê-ishâh, which adds to the resemblance in sound.

As a matter of philology the derivation is inaccurate. Probably Isshah is derived from a different root, anash. But nearly all these popular derivations of words prove to be inaccurate when judged by scientific etymology. They are based upon the assonance, or obvious resemblance in sound; and this, while it cannot fail to catch the ear and cling to the recollection of the people, is notoriously to be distrusted for supplying the real derivation.

Therefore shall a man, &c.] This verse contains the comment which the narrator makes upon the words of the man in v. 23. The word “therefore” introduces his inference. As in 10:9, 26:33, 32:32, a sentence beginning with “therefore” supplies the application, or relation, of the ancient narrative to later times. It is the man who is to leave “father and mother,” not “the woman.” Some compare the story in Judg. 15:1, where the woman remains with her family or clan, and Samson comes to live with her. This feature has been thought to illustrate the primitive usage of “the matriarchate.” But it is unlikely that the Hebrew narrative would contain a reference to such conditions.

Instead of “shall leave,” the full force of the tense in the Hebrew would be given by “doth leave” and “cleaveth.” The sanctity of marital relations is thus referred back to the very birthday of human society, being based on a principle laid down before the Fall.

The relation of the man to his wife is proclaimed to be closer than that to his father and mother. By the words, “shall cleave unto his wife … one flesh,” is asserted the sanctity of marriage. Polygamy is not definitely excluded; but the principle of monogamy seems to be implied in the words “cleave” and “shall be one flesh”: and this principle is upheld by the prophets as the ideal of marriage, in their representation of the relation of Jehovah and Israel under the metaphor of the married state.

This is the classical passage dealing with marriage to which our Lord appeals, Matt. 19:4–6, Mark 10:6–8, in His argument against divorce.

St Paul quotes it in 1 Cor. 6:16, in condemnation of unchastity, and in Eph. 5:31, when describing the ideal relationships of Christ and His Church.

and they shall be one flesh] Lit., as LXX καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν, Lat. erunt duo in carne una, where the addition of “the two” is supported by the Syriac Peshitto, the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, and the quotations in the N.T., Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:8; 1 Cor. 6:16.

25. This verse by one simple illustration describes the condition of the man and the woman in the garden. It is not that of moral perfection, but that of the innocence and ignorance of childhood. The untried innocence of the child does not possess the sense of shame: the depravity of vice forfeits it. The sense of shame is the shadow which temptation to sin throws across the pathway of purity.

Note on the Sabbath

In connexion with the Institution of the Sabbath recorded in Gen. 2:1–3 the following points deserve to be noticed.

1. The writer gives the reason for the sanctity among the Hebrews of the Seventh Day, or Sabbath. As, in chap. 17, he supplies an answer to the question: What is the origin of the Hebrew sacred rite of circumcision? so, here, he gives an answer to the question: What is the origin of the observance of the Sabbath?

2. Whereas the Hebrew rite of circumcision is described as having its origin in the command of God delivered to Abraham, the Father of the Chosen People, the origin of the Sabbath is treated as more ancient and uniquely sacred. As an institution, it follows at once upon the work of Creation. Whatever its import, therefore, may be, it is regarded by the writer as universal in its application. The Divine rest from Creation, like the Divine work of Creation, was a pledge of Divine Love, not to the Jew only, but to the whole world.

3. From the first, God is said to have “blessed” and “sanctified” the seventh day. In other words, he invested the seventh day with the quality of highest value and advantage to those who observed it; stamped its observance with the seal of Divine approbation; and “set it apart,” as distinct from the other six days, for sacred purposes.

4. The account of the origin of the Sabbath, given in this passage, is followed in the legislation, Ex. 31:17 (P), and seems to have supplied the appendix to the primitive form of the Fourth Commandment as found in the Decalogue of Exodus (20:11).

In the Deuteronomic Decalogue (Dt. 5:12–15) the observance of the Sabbath is enjoined, without any reference to the days of Creation, but with an appendix explaining its humanitarian purpose. “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.”

A similar explanation for the observance of the Sabbath is found in the so-called Book of the Covenant (Ex. 20:22–23:33 E), which contains the earliest collection of Hebrew laws: “Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may have rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed” (Ex. 23:12). In the old ritual laws of Ex. 34:10–28, the observance of the seventh day is commanded as a duty with which no pressure of field labour is to interfere: “Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest; in plowing time and in harvest thou shalt rest” (v. 21).

What relation exists between the Hebrew institution of the Sabbath and Babylonian usage is a question which has been much discussed in recent years. It has sometimes been too hastily assumed that the Hebrew ordinance has been directly imported from Babylonia. For a full discussion, see Driver (D.B. s.v. Sabbath); Gordon, Early Traditions of Genesis, pp. 216–223; the Commentaries by Driver and Skinner; Meinhold, Sabbath u. Woche im A.T. The following points may here be noticed:

(a) The Assyrian word shabattu appears in a cuneiform syllabary (ii Rawlinson 32, 16 a, b) with the equivalent ûm nûḥ libbi (ilâni), i.e. “day of resting (satisfying or appeasing) the heart of the gods.”

(b) In a tablet, discovered in 1904 by Pinches, the word shapattu appears to have been applied to the 15th day, or full-moon day, of the month (P.S.B.A. xxvi. 51 ff.).

(c) There is evidence which shews that the 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th days, and also the 19th (i.e. the 49th = 7 × 7th, from the commencement of the preceding month) were in certain, if not in all, of the Babylonian months, regarded as “unlucky” days. The following quotation is from a calendar of the intercalated month of Elul. “On the 7th day, supplication to Marduk and Sarpanitum, a favourable day (sc. may it be). An evil day. The shepherd of many nations is not to eat meat roasted by the fire, or any food prepared by the fire. The clothes of his body he is not to change, fine dress (?) he is not to put on. Sacrifices he is not to bring, nor is the king to ride in his chariot. He is not to hold court, nor is the priest to seek an oracle for him in the holy of holies. The physician is not to be brought to the sick room. The day is not suitable for invoking curses. At night, in the presence of Marduk and Ishtar, the king is to bring his gift. Then he is to offer sacrifices so that his prayer may be acceptable” (M. Jastrow’s Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, pp. 376, 377).

(d) It is only on the side of prohibition that we can here see any resemblance between the Babylonian treatment of the seventh day and the Hebrew Sabbath of every seventh day. Of course it is possible that if the use of the Babylonian word shapattu for “full-moon” day is sustained, it may be a survival of Semitic lunar sacred days, the observance of which, though dropped by Babylonian usage, was retained by Hebrew legislation and given a new religious significance.

(e) In the pre-exilic writings of the O.T. (2 Kings 4:23; Is. 1:13; Hos. 2:11; Amos 8:5) we notice the joint mention of the New Moon and the Sabbath as sacred festivals observed by the people; but the conjecture of Meinhold, that the Sabbath was originally the Hebrew name of the Full Moon Festival, seems very improbable. That there is some underlying connexion between the Babylonian shabattu and the Hebrew shabbath is highly probable. At present, there is no evidence to shew that the Hebrew usage is borrowed from Babylonian. Nor does the language of the post-exilic writers suggest that the Hebrew observance of the Sabbath was one which they associated with Babylonian religion.

Note On The Cosmogonies Of Genesis

The Book of Genesis contains two Cosmogonies: (1) the earlier and simpler one, that of 2:4b–25 J, (2) the later and more systematic one, that of 1:1–2:4a P.

(1) The distinctive features of the earlier one suggest a scene familiar to dwellers in the desert. The earth is barren and dry: there is as yet no rain to make it fruitful, no man to till it (v. 5). A stream issues “from the earth”; it irrigates “the whole face of the ground” (v. 6). Jehovah forms “man” out of the dust, and breathes life into him (v. 7). He causes him to dwell in a garden of rich soil and fruitful trees (vv. 8–17). He forms “the beasts of the field” and “the fowls of the air” to be man’s companions (vv. 18–20). But they give no true companionship: and Jehovah, casting “man” into a deep sleep, takes out of him a rib, and forms “woman” to be man’s companion (vv. 21–25).

The process of formation is orderly: (1) dry earth, (2) water, (3) man, (4) vegetation, (5) animals, (6) woman. Jehovah is the maker of all. Man is, in all, the object of Jehovah’s care and solicitude. The scene of the garden is that of an oasis teeming with life and vegetation.

(2) The later and more elaborate Cosmogony (1:1–2:4a) is, undoubtedly, ultimately derived from the alluvial region of Babylonia. At the first, there is a primordial watery chaos, over which “broods” the quickening “spirit of God” (v. 2). Then ensue six days of Creation. On the first, God creates the light, causing day and night (v. 3). On the second, He “makes” the “firmament, or solid expanse of heaven, which parts asunder the waters above and the waters below (v. 7). On the third day, God collects the lower waters into seas, and makes the earth appear, and clothes it with vegetation (vv. 9–13). On the fourth day, He makes the sun, moon, and stars; and “sets” them in the “firmament,” to rule over the day and the night (vv. 14–19). On the fifth day, He causes the water and the air to bring forth water-animals and winged things (vv. 20–23). On the sixth day, God “makes” the animals of the earth; and, finally, “creates” man, “male and female,” “in the image of God” (vv. 24–31).

In this Cosmogony there are certain points of resemblance to the Babylonian Cosmogony contained in the Seven Tables of Creation, in which Marduk, the god of light, overthrows Tiamat, the dragon-goddess of the watery chaos, sets up the luminaries of heaven, and makes man. The following table, taken from Gordon’s Early Traditions of Genesis (p. 51), will shew all the chief points of resemblance, and will also make it clear that the Biblical story is not a mere reproduction of the Babylonian myth.

Gen. 1.

Seven Tables.

    i.    The emergence of light (vv. 3 f.).

    i.    The appearance of Marduk, god of light (ii. 97).

    ii.    The division of primaeval chaos into heaven and earth (vv. 6 ff.).

    ii.    The splitting in two of Tiamat, to form heaven and earth (iv. 135 ff.; cf. Berosus).

    iii.    The growth of herbs and trees from earth (vv. 11 f.).

    iii.    The setting up of the sun, moon, and stars in heaven, as images of the great gods, to “rule” the day and night, and determine the seasons (v. 1 ff.).

    iv.    The placing of the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament of heaven, to “rule” the day and night, and to serve as “signs” of seasons, &c. (vv. 14 ff.).

    iv.    The creation of plants (not found in our present text, but evidently an original element of the Epos—prob. in Tab. v., after the setting up of the heavenly bodies) (cf. vii. 1 f., 21 ff.).

    v.    The creation of the animals (vv. 20 ff.).

    v.    Creation of the animals (also missing from our present text, but authenticated by Berosus—its place also, probably, in Tab. v., after creation of plants).

    vi.    The creation of man in God’s image (vv. 26 ff.).

    vi.    Creation of man from Marduk’s blood mixed with earth (Tab. vi. 5 ff.; cf. vii. 29, and Berosus).

It will be observed that, except for the exchange in the position of the creation of the plant world and the heavenly bodies, the same general order is followed. In the details of the account, the division of the waters above and below the firmament seems to correspond closely to the cleaving of Tiamat into two pieces, to form the heaven and the earth; and the setting of the heavenly bodies as “signs,” for the determining of seasons, days, and years, and for ruling the day and night, presents a feature of striking similarity to the Babylonian story.

The Genesis Cosmogony has dispensed with the grotesque and often unlovely and confusing details of the Babylonian mythology. For example, whereas man is made out of the compound of Marduk’s blood and the dust of the earth, the truth, which underlies this crude representation, is stated by the Hebrew writer in the simple words, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26).

The two main ideas that run through this Hebrew Cosmogony are:

(1) God is the One Almighty Creative Power; whether calling into being light (v. 3), the firmament (vv. 6, 7), the heavenly bodies (vv. 16, 17), and man (v. 27), or causing vegetation to come forth from the earth (vv. 11, 12), fish from the water (vv. 20, 21), animals from the earth (vv. 24, 25).

(2) The sequence in the creative acts is an orderly ascent from one stage to another, progressing from amorphous chaos to man as the crown of creation. At first, there is darkness and watery mass. Light displaces darkness; a solid dome of heaven separates the waters; the waters are collected; earth emerges, and out of the earth vegetation; the heavenly bodies are bearers of light; the waters and the air produce their living creatures; and, lastly, the earth produces the beasts; and, to crown the whole work, God creates man.

It is progress from chaos to order; from elemental to complex; from inorganic to organic; from lifeless matter to vegetable; from vegetable to animal, and, finally, to human life.

The Six Days

The most distinctive feature in the Hebrew Cosmogony of Gen. 1:1–2:4a is the scheme of Six Days Creation. The orderly arrangement of chronological material is characteristic of the style of P. The stages of the Divine Creative work lent themselves to be distributed over Six Days. But, according to the religious thought of the devout Israelite, the Seventh Day must from the first have been a day of rest, and the Divine example alone could have communicated to the observance of the Sabbath its supreme seal of sanctity.

It is noteworthy that the only two passages in the Old Testament in which reference is made to the “six days work” of Creation, are Ex. 20:11 and 31:17, both of which are probably based upon P’s narrative. (See Commentaries by McNeile and Driver, in loc.) The Six Days Creation, followed by the Seventh Day of Rest, are distinctively Israelite and not Babylonian features. There is nothing corresponding to them in the Babylonian myth. The Seven Tables of Creation are not arranged in any sequence of days.

The Creative works of the Six Days have been classified in different ways.

(1) Thomas Aquinas divided them into three “opera distinctionis” and three “opera ornatus.”

Opera distinctionis.

Opera ornatus.

1st Day.


4th Day.

Heavenly Bodies.

2nd Day.

The Firmament.

5th Day.

Fishes and Birds.

3rd Day.

Sea, Land, and Vegetation.

6th Day.

Cattle, Beasts, and Man.

(2) Many modern scholars, e.g. Wellhausen and Gunkel, suggest that the Cosmogony originally told of eight creative works, and that these have been arranged in P’s scheme of “six days”:



1.    Light.

5.    Luminaries.

2.    Heaven.

6.    Fishes.

3.    Sea.

7.    Birds.

4.    Vegetation.

8.    Animals and Man.

(3) The endeavour to find any exact symmetry of parallelism between the works of the first three days and the works of the second three days must be abandoned. Roughly speaking, it may suffice to say, to quote Driver, that “the first three days are days of preparation, the next three are days of accomplishment.” But the following facts are noteworthy. (a) Each group of three days contains four creative acts: (b) the third day, in each group, has two creative acts assigned to it: (c) the creation of light on the first day has corresponding to it on the fourth day the creation of the “light-bearers,” or heavenly bodies: (d) the separation of the waters, on the second day, by the making of the firmament, seems to correspond with the creation, on the fifth, of the creatures of the sea and of the fowls “that fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (v. 20): (e) whereas, on the third day, the dry land appears, and vegetable life is made, it is on the sixth day that the animals of the earth, and man, are created; while the herbs, grasses, and fruits of the third day’s creation are the appointed food (v. 30), both of animals and of mankind.

1st Day.


2nd Day.

The Firmament, separating between the waters above and below.

3rd Day.

(a) Formation of the Sea and the Earth, and (b) of the Vegetable World.

4th Day.

Heavenly Bodies.

5th Day.

Fowls of the Air, and Water Animals.

6th Day.

(a) Animals of the Earth, (b) Mankind.

The Cosmogonies and Science and Religion

Every Cosmogony expresses, under the form of imagery, the childlike answers of a people in its earliest phases of civilization to the questionings of the human mind as to the origin of the world and of life. No Cosmogony, therefore, can be expected to give any but naïve, crude, and simple explanations of the deep mysteries of the universe.

The Biblical Cosmogonies only differ from other Cosmogonies in this respect. They reproduce the early beliefs of the Israelite people respecting the Origin of the World and of the Human Race in the form of narrative which, however simple and childlike, is devoid of any taint of polytheism or degrading superstition, and is capable of conveying the profoundest truths respecting God, the Universe, and Mankind.

Unquestionably, they present to us the physical science of their age. And, by comparison with other Cosmogonies, the statement, contained in the first two chapters of Genesis, surpasses in dignity, lucidity, and simplicity that which is to be found in any other ancient literature. It is no exaggeration to say that the picture, which the first chapter of Genesis presents of the orderly progress out of primordial chaos, and of the successive stages in the creation of vegetation, fishes, birds, mammals, and man, is unrivalled for its combination of simplicity, grandeur, and truth. It contains, in principle, though, of course, without exactitude in detail, the thought which is contained in the modern idea of evolution.

Judged by the standards of modern knowledge, the Cosmogonies of Genesis are wholly defective. They present to us pictures, accounting for the origin of things, which vividly corresponded with the Semitic thought of their age and country, but which from the point of view of science are devoid of any value.

For instance, in Gen. 2, the formation of man out of the dust of the earth, and of woman out of man’s rib, is the symbolism of primitive legend, not actual fact.

In Gen. 1, the conception of the universe, as in the O.T. generally, is geocentric. The sun, moon and stars are formed after the earth, and attached to the “firmament.” The “firmament” of the heaven is a solid dome above which are vast reservoirs of water. The vegetation of the earth appears before the formation of the sun. “Six Days” account for the origin of the whole universe. Two days are assigned for the formation of all forms of animal life and of mankind.

These are ideas which, however beautifully expressed, belong to the childhood of the enquiring thought of mankind. They have had their value in helping to supply the science of the Christian world in pre-scientific days. In this respect they have served their time. We derive our knowledge of the structure of the globe, of the universe, of the stars, of the succession of animal life, of the antiquity of man, not from these two chapters of Genesis, but from the continually progressive teaching of modern science. Modern science is based upon the skilled and minute observations of men of genius and highly trained intellect. The astronomical discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton, reinforced by the philosophical teaching of Bacon’s Novum Organon, have revolutionized the natural sciences. The pre-Copernican conception of the universe has passed for ever away.

It is to be remembered that to the Israelite writers “the realm of natural sciences,” as we call them, had no existence. The universe had come into being by the Will of God. The phenomena of Nature were the manifestations of His handiwork. God was the immediate fashioner of all from the beginning. The religion of Jehovah had chased away the Nature Deities of the heathen nations. The Spirit of God is the source of all life: every law of Nature is the direct fulfilment of Divine command. To the Israelite writer “religion” and “science” are one. The gaps in human knowledge are filled up with the poetry of primitive imagination; but this is never allowed to conflict with the pure monotheism of Israel. Neither the world, nor any creature, nor the heavenly bodies, are identified with the Divine Being. Nothing in the universe has any existence save through the Will of God. There is no independent, no hostile, deity. God has willed and made all; and, therefore, He is able to pronounce all to be “very good.” The Hebrew Cosmogonies testify to a God who is not only omnipotent, but whose works proclaim His praise as the God of order, of progress, and of love.

Note On The Rivers Of Paradise

Gen. 2:11–14

The mention of the four rivers of Paradise has given rise to many endeavours to localize the site. A famous pamphlet by Prof. F. Delitzsch, entitled Wo lag das Paradise? (= What was the site of Paradise?), 1881, gave an immense impulse to the enquiry.

1. Delitzsch himself ingeniously identifies Pishon with the Pallakopas, a canal on the W. bank of the Euphrates, flowing into the Persian Gulf, and Gihon with the modern Shaṭṭ-en-Nil, a canal from the E. bank of the Euphrates, near Babylon, and returning to the Euphrates over against Ur. Hiddekel and Euphrates will then be the lower portions of the Tigris and the Euphrates; Havilah part of the desert W. of the Euphrates; Cush the name for that region in Babylonia, which gave its name to the Kassite dynasty. According to this theory, Eden is the plain (edinu) between the Tigris and the Euphrates, and the river in v. 10 is the Euphrates. It seems, however, fatal to this ingenious view that

(a) it identifies the river of v. 11 with one of the four heads into which it divides itself:

(b) “the whole land of Havilah” must be intended to denote something much more extensive than the small district enclosed by the Pallakopas canal: while the canal Shaṭṭ-en-Nil could never be described as encircling the land of Cush:

(c) “in front of Assyria” is a description of the Tigris to the N. of Babylonia, and is unsuitable to the region near Babylon where the two rivers approach most closely to each other.

2. Sayce, in H. C. M. 95 ff., proposes that the garden of Eden is to be identified with the sacred garden of Ea at Eridu, once the seaport of Chaldaea on the Persian Gulf; and the river which waters it (v. 11), with the Persian Gulf, while the four rivers are the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Pallakopas (= Pison), the Choaspes (modern Kerkha) = Gihon, their waters entering the Persian Gulf by separate mouths. The Persian Gulf was sometimes designated in the Babylonian language Nâr Marratum (“Bitter River”). It is an objection that the Biblical account makes the one river divide up into four, while this theory makes four rivers flow into one.

3. With this view should be associated that of Hommel (A.H.T. 314 ff.), who identifies Eden with the “garden” at Eridu, the river of v. 11 with the Persian Gulf, and the three rivers Pishon, Gihon and Hiddekel with three wādis in N. Arabia.

4. Haupt, quoted in Driver, supposes the common source of the four rivers to have been an imaginary lake in N. Mesopotamia. The Pishon is the Persian Gulf encircling Havilah, or Arabia; the Gihon is the Karun, supposed to flow eventually through Cush and become the Nile; while the Tigris and the Euphrates entered, by separate mouths, the marshes, beyond which was the Persian Gulf.

5. Skinner suggests (p. 64) that the Hebrew geographer, who was himself only acquainted with the two great Mesopotamian rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, added to them the names of two others, the Pishon and the Gihon, by which he intended the two mysterious rivers of the Indian world, the Indus and the Ganges.

Delitzsch and Dillmann identify the Pishon with the Indus, and the Gihon with the Nile. “But if the biblical narrator believed the Nile to rise with Euphrates and Tigris, it is extremely likely that he regarded its upper waters as the Indus, as Alexander the Great did in his time; and we might then fall back on the old identification of Pishon with the Ganges” (Skinner).

6. Two of the rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates, which were known to flow from a remote Northern region into Mesopotamia. The tradition supposed this Northern region to contain also the sources of two other rivers which rivalled the Tigris and the Euphrates. One of them, according to the vague notions of ancient geography, somehow encircled Havilah (= Arabia), while the other watered the region of Cush (= Soudan).

7. The well-known names embodied in this strange piece of ancient geography make it very improbable that any mythological or astrological explanation can meet the requirements of the problem.

Ch. 3. (J.) The Story of Paradise (cont.): 2. The Fall of Man (1–24)

    1–5.    The Temptation.

    6–8.    The Fall.

    9–13.    The Enquiry.

    14–19.    The Sentence.

    20–21.    Man’s Clothing.

    22–24.    The Expulsion from the Garden.

Now the serpent] The abrupt mention of the serpent is characteristic of this narrative. Vivid and picturesque as it is, the story leaves many things omitted and unexplained. The present verse is an illustration. It makes no mention of time; whether the interval between the Creation and the Fall was one of days, months, or years, is not stated. The serpent is brought upon the scene without explanation, though he is gifted with speech and is able, by means of knowledge superior to that of the woman, to tell her what will be the results of eating of the forbidden fruit; cf. v. 5 with v. 22.

Ch. 3, though one of the same group of narratives as ch. 2:4b–25, has no appearance of being the immediate continuance of ch. 2, but rather of being a distinct and independent story. The connecting link is the mention of the tree “in the midst of the garden.”

The serpent is (1) one of “the beasts of the field” (cf. 2:19), “formed out of the ground”; (2) more “subtle” than any of them; (3) not identified with a spirit, or any personal power, of evil. For this development of the narrative, belonging to a late period of Jewish literature, cf. Wisdom 2:23, “by envy of the devil death entered into the world,” Rev. 20:2, “the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan.”

more subtil] i.e. more sly, clever, and mischievous. For the wisdom of the serpent, cf. the proverbial expression quoted by our Lord, “Be ye wise (φρόνιμοι) as serpents,” Matt. 10:16. Here the LXX has ὁ δὲ ὄφις ἦν φρονιμώτατος πάντων τῶν θηρίων.

Yea, hath God said] The serpent, in order to secure success, addresses the woman, who (a) was the weaker, (b) was apparently alone, and (c) had not herself received the Divine command respecting the fruit of the tree (2:16).

Observe that in the serpent’s mouth the general name, “God” (Elohim), is used, and not the sacred name “Jehovah” (Lord), and that the woman replying takes up the serpent’s words.

The method which the serpent adopts is insidious. He knows the prohibition; he feigns ignorance, and asks to be instructed. The question suggests a doubt of Divine goodness. It takes the tone of indignant surprise at the injustice and harshness of a prohibition which had forbidden the man and the woman to eat of any tree of the garden. Such a suggestion, however easily refuted, might instill into the mind of the unsuspicious woman a grain of doubt, whether even any limitation was consonant with perfect justice and kindness. Compare the first temptation: “If thou art the Son of God,” Matt. 4, Luke 4:3.

The versions, misunderstanding the Hebrew particles, give a slightly different turn to the serpent’s question: LXX τί ὅτι, Lat. cur, making the serpent ask, not as to the fact, but as to the reason of the prohibition.

the woman, &c.] The woman is quick to correct the error into which she fancies the serpent has fallen, and to defend the generosity of the Lord.

of the fruit of the tree, &c.] The woman speaks of only one tree, and that one is in the midst of the garden. She does not mention it by name. In 2:9, where two trees are mentioned, the one which is described as “in the midst of the garden” is the tree of life. Here the woman speaks of the tree, which is “in the midst of the garden,” as the tree of knowledge.

neither shall ye touch it] This is an addition to the prohibition contained in 2:17, either an element omitted in the previous chapter, or an exaggeration expressive of the woman’s eagerness.

Ye shall not surely die] The words are very emphatic, “by no means shall ye die.” The serpent directly contradicts the statement of the penalty of death, and thus craftily removes the cause for fear, before dwelling upon the advantages to be obtained from defiance of the Divine decree.

for God doth know, &c.] Having denied the fact of the penalty, the serpent proceeds to suggest that there is an unjust motive for the threat. It is not, he says, for the good of the man and the woman, but in order to exclude them from their privilege and right. No reason had been assigned: the serpent suggests one, that of jealous fear, lest men should be as God. According to the story, there is a half-truth in each utterance of the tempter; (1) “ye shall not surely die”: and it is true that the penalty of 2:17 was not literally carried out. The man did not die in the day that he ate of the fruit: (2) “in the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened”; the prediction is verified in v. 7: (3) “Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil”: the prediction is confirmed by the words of Jehovah Himself, v. 22, “Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” These three assertions, the denial of penalty, the promise of knowledge, and the prospect of independence, therefore, are not lies capable of direct refutation, but half-truths requiring explanation.

your eyes shall be opened] An expression denoting the sudden acquisition of discernment to apprehend that which before had been hidden from ordinary sight. Cf. 21:19; 1 Sam. 14:29; 2 Kings 6:17.

as God] or as gods. Both translations are possible, as in the Hebrew the word for God, Elohim, is plural; and consequently it is sometimes impossible to say whether “a god,” or “gods,” is the right translation: e.g. 1 Sam. 28:13, “and the woman said unto Saul, I see a god (or ‘gods’) coming up out of the earth.” In favour of the plural “gods” is the expression in v. 22, “the man is become as one of us.” The word “Elohim” may be used of the Heavenly Beings, “Sons of God,” who living in the presence of God are spoken of as sharers in His Divinity; see note on 1:26. But as the purpose of the serpent is to implant distrust of, and disaffection towards, the Lord who had made the man and woman, the singular, “as God,” is to be preferred.

6–8. The Fall

The serpent here disappears from the story, except for the mention of him in the woman’s words of excuse (v. 13), and in the Divine sentence upon him (vv. 14, 15). He did not tell the woman to eat the fruit. The temptation which is most dangerous is rarely the most direct. The soul, which has once yielded to the temptation to distrust the goodness of God, may be left to itself to disobey Him, and, in the conflict between pleasure and the service of God, will prefer its own way. Disobedience to God is the assertion of self-will, and “sin is lawlessness” (ἀνομία), 1 John 3:4.

And when the woman] The woman’s attention has been drawn to the tree. She finds that the serpent’s suggestion, based on the mysterious properties of the fruit and on the supposition of Jehovah’s jealousy and unkindness, is reinforced by the attractive appearance of the fruit. Probably good to taste, evidently fair to look on, and alleged to contain the secret of wisdom, the sight of the fruit stimulates desire, and this being no longer resisted by a loyal love of God obtains the mastery; cf. Jas. 1:14, 15, “Each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.”

to be desired to make one wise] or rather, “to be desired, in order to be wise.” The same word in the Hebrew as in Ps. 2:10, “now therefore be wise, O ye kings.” The R.V. marg., “desirable to look upon,” gives a rendering of the Hebrew word which is not supported by its use elsewhere in the Bible, though found with this sense in late Hebrew, and in this verse supported by the versions, LXX ὡραῖον τοῦ κατανοῆσαι, Vulg. aspectu delectabile, and the Syriac Peshitto.

and she gave also] The story is so condensed that we are left in ignorance, whether the man yielded as easily to the woman as she had to the serpent. The fact that the woman “fell” first, before the man, was presumably a point upon which stress was laid in the Rabbinic teaching, to which St Paul alludes in 1 Tim. 2:14, “and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression.”

And the eyes, &c.] The serpent’s promise is fulfilled; their eyes having been opened, they have forfeited the state of innocence of which nakedness was symbolical, cf. 2:25. The knowledge to which they have attained is neither that of happiness, wisdom, nor power, but that of the consciousness of sin and of its conflict with the Will of God.

fig leaves] These leaves would be chosen because of their size. The fig tree is said to be indigenous in Palestine, but not in Babylonia. If so, it is an indirect proof that our version of the story is genuinely Israelite. “Fig leaves are thick, palmately lobed, and often a span or more across” (Hastings’ D.B., s.v.).

aprons] Better, as R.V. marg., girdles: LXX περιζώματα, Lat. perizomata.

The rendering “breeches,” which appeared in the Genevan Bible (1560), caused that version to be popularly known as “the breeches Bible.”

the voice] Better, as R.V. marg., sound. The man and woman are represented as hearing the sound of God’s footsteps in the garden.

in the cool of the day] Lit. “in the wind of the day”; that is, at the time of day when, in the East, a cool wind springs up, and people leave their houses. LXX τὸ δειλινόν, Vulg. ad auram post meridiem.

hid themselves] Evidently it had hitherto been their custom to go with Jehovah when He “walked in the garden.” Now conscience makes cowards of them; and, like children who had done wrong, they hide themselves “in medio ligni Paradisi” (Vulg.).

9–13. The Enquiry

The certainty of tone with which the following questions are put indicates either perfect knowledge or accurate perception, and reduces the guilty man to a speedy confession. The questions are put, not to obtain information, but to give opportunity for self-examination and acknowledgment of guilt. The endeavour of the man and woman to put the blame on others is a lifelike trait.

Where art thou?] The Lord does not abandon, He seeks, the guilty. The question is one which the voice of conscience puts to every man who thinks that he can hide his sin from God’s sight.

heard … afraid … hid] The man has not courage to tell the whole truth. Fear suppresses that part of the truth which love should have avowed. To hide from God’s presence is the instinct of guilt; it is the converse of “to seek His face.”

Who told thee, &c.?] To this question no answer is expected. The knowledge could only come in one way. The sense of shame implies contact with sin.

Hast thou eaten, &c.?] An opportunity is given for a full confession of disobedience and for the expression of contrition.

The woman, &c.] The man, unable to deny the charge, seeks to excuse himself by laying the blame primarily on the woman, and secondarily on Jehovah Himself, for having given him the woman as his companion. Guilt makes the man first a coward, and then insolent.

The serpent beguiled me] The woman, in answer to the direct and piercing question, lays the blame upon the serpent. For the word “beguiled,” cf. 2 Cor. 11:3. See St Paul’s use of the passage in 1 Tim. 2:14.

The serpent is not interrogated. Perhaps, as some suggest, because “being an animal it is not morally responsible: but it is punished here as the representative of evil thoughts and suggestions” (Driver). Others have surmised that, as some features of the story have disappeared in the condensed version that has come down to us, the question put to the serpent and his answers may have seemed less suitable for preservation.

The interrogation is over: it has been admitted, (1) that the man and the woman had eaten the fruit: (2) that the woman had given it the man: (3) that the serpent had beguiled her. The evil has been traced back from the man to the woman, from the woman to the serpent: there is no enquiry into the origin of the evil. Judgement is now delivered in the reverse order, beginning with the serpent, and concluding with the man on whom the chief responsibility rests; for he had enjoyed direct converse with the Lord, and had received the charge of the garden.

14–19. The Sentence

cursed art thou] The word “cursed” is only used in addressing the serpent, as the originator of the temptation, and in reference to “the ground” as the sphere of man’s penalty (v. 17). Jehovah does not pronounce a curse either upon the man or upon the woman.

above] Better, as R.V. marg., from among. Taken from among the other animals, the domestic cattle and the wild beasts, the serpent alone receives the curse. So LXX ἀπό, Vulg. “inter.” An objection to the rendering “above” is, that it would imply a curse of some sort upon all animals, and a special one upon the serpent.

upon thy belly, &c.] It appears from this sentence that the story considered the serpent to have been originally different in appearance and mode of progression. Its crawling movement on the ground and the apparent necessity for its swallowing dust are regarded as the results of the curse pronounced in the garden.

Prostrate, no longer erect, and feeding on the dust which man shakes off from his foot, the serpent-race typified the insidious character of the power of evil, to which the upright walk of man was the typical contrast.

all the days of thy life] Not the individual serpent, but the whole serpent-race. These words, together with the details of the curse, conclusively shew that Jehovah is addressing an animal, and not the spirit of evil.

and I will put enmity] The first meaning of this sentence refers to the instinctive antipathy of mankind towards the serpent, and the frequently deadly character of the wounds inflicted by serpents upon human beings.

But this explanation does not exhaust the full meaning of the verse. The narrator tells the story, not in the spirit of a compiler of folk-lore, but with the purpose of embodying in it the truths of religion. The hostility between the serpent and the woman, between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed, typifies the unending conflict between all that represents the forces of evil on the one hand, and all that represents the true and high destiny of mankind on the other. Upon this antagonism Jehovah has, as it were, set His seal from the very beginning. He has ordained it. There must be war between every form of evil and the children of man. This verse has been called the Protevangelium. There is no prediction of a personal victor, or even of an ultimate victory. Commentators used to see in the words, “thou shalt bruise his heel,” a prediction of the sufferings and crucifixion of our Lord, as “the seed” of the woman; and in the words, “it shall bruise thy head,” the victory of the Crucified and Risen Son of Man over the forces of sin and death. We are not justified in going to the full length of this interpretation. The victory of the Cross contains, in its fullest expression, the fulfilment of the conflict, which God here proclaims between Mankind and the symbol of Evil, and in which He Himself espouses the cause of man. The Conflict and the Victory are oracularly announced. But there is no prediction of the Personal Messiah.

enmity] An unusual word in the Hebrew, occurring elsewhere in O.T. only in Num. 35:21, 22, Ezek. 25:15, 35:5. LXX ἔχθραν, Lat. inimicitias. It denotes the “blood-feud” between the man and the serpent-race.

bruise] The Hebrew word rendered “bruise” is the same in both clauses. Suitable as it is in its application to the “crushing” of a serpent’s head beneath a man’s foot, it is unsuitable as applied to the serpent’s attack upon the man’s heel. Accordingly some scholars prefer the rendering “aim at,” from a word of a similar root meaning to “pant” or “pant after.” So the R.V. marg. lie in wait for (which, however, the root can hardly mean). The LXX has watch, τήρησει and τήρησεις, probably with the same idea. Vulg. has conteret = “shall bruise,” in the first clause; insidiaberis = “shalt lie in wait for,” in the second clause. It has been conjectured that the root shûph = “bruise,” may have had some special secondary meaning in which it was used of the serpent’s bite.

The Vulgate ipsa conteret caput tuum is noticeable. By an error, it rendered the Heb. masc. pronoun (“he” = LXX αὐτός) by the feminine pronoun “ipsa,” ascribing to the woman herself, not to her seed, the crushing of the serpent’s head. The feminine pronoun has given rise to some singular instances of exegesis in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I will greatly multiply] The sentence upon the woman deals with the two aspects of the married woman’s life, as wife and as mother. The story explains the pains of child-bearing as the penalty for the Fall. The possession of children is the Eastern woman’s strongest passion. The sentence upon the woman gratifies her desire, but crosses it with sorrow. The penalty brings also its blessing; and the blessing its discipline.

thy sorrow] Better, a Driver, “thy pain,” as the word, elsewhere used only in vv. 17, 29, is evidently not restricted to mental distress.

thy conception] Lat. conceptus tuos. But LXX τὸν στεναγμόν σου = “thy groaning,” according to a reading which differs by a very slight change in two Hebrew letters. This is preferred by some commentators, who represent that in the Israelite world a numerous family was regarded as a sign of God’s blessing, and not in the light of a penalty. But the change is needless. The sentence both upon the man and upon the woman is not so much punitive as disciplinary. The woman’s vocation to motherhood was her highest privilege and most intense happiness. The pains and disabilities of child-bearing, which darken the mystery of many a woman’s life, are declared to be the reminder that pain is part of God’s ordinance in the world, and that, in the human race, suffering enters largely into the shadow of sin.

in sorrow] viz. “in pain” as above.

thy desire, &c.] LXX ἡ ἀποστροφή σου, i.e. “thy turning or inclination,” with a very slight change of one letter in the Hebrew. But, again, there is no need to alter the reading. The two clauses present the antithesis of woman’s love and man’s lordship. Doubtless, there is a reference to the never ending romance of daily life, presented by the passionate attachment of a wife to her husband, however domineering, unsympathetic, or selfish he may be. But the primary reference will be to the condition of subservience which woman occupied, and still occupies, in the East; and to the position of man, as head of the family, and carrying the responsibility, as well as the authority, of “rule.”

This is emphasized in the Latin sub viri potestate eris.

cursed is the ground] The man is addressed as one who in the future is to be dependent upon the soil for the means of subsistence. Not man, but the ground for man’s sake, is accursed. Its fruitfulness is withheld, in order that man may realize the penalties of sin through the pains of laborious toil. The sentence, which, reverses the blessing of 2:15, befalls the whole earth.

in toil] R.V. marg. “sorrow.” But see note on v. 16.

thorns also, &c.] These are not new products of the soil because of sin, but are typical of that which the earth brings forth of itself, and of ground neglected or rendered fallow by man’s indolence. Left to itself, the soil produces weeds which must be removed. Man is to live upon that which he laboriously sows and plants and cultivates.

thistles] Elsewhere only in Hos. 10:8.

the herb of the field] It is here ordained that man shall eat “the herb of the field,” requiring laborious cultivation. This is a change from the diet of fruit assigned to him in 2:16 (J). The passage assumes that agriculture was man’s first industry. Anthropology tells a different story; but the Hebrew belief is a recognition of the fact that agriculture was essential to the life of dwellers in Palestine.

in the sweat of thy face] As in the sentence upon the woman, so here, in the sentence upon the man, suffering is not punitive, but disciplinary, being associated with his highest vocation. The necessity of labour has proved man’s greatest blessing; it has evoked the qualities which are distinctively most noble, and has been the cause of all progress and improvement.

till thou return, &c.] Man’s work is to continue to the end. Old age has its own scope for activities. Physical robustness is not the only measure of responsibility or efficiency.

dust thou art, &c.] See note on v. 7. Jehovah does not slay man at once; He is merciful, and relaxes His first decree. Man is not to enjoy earthly immortality: but he shall live until “the breath of God” is taken from him, and he becomes dust again.

20–21. These two verses are a parenthesis interrupting the thread of the narrative. Probably they contain materials current in some other thread of tradition, and inserted here at the close of the judicial sentence.

Eve] Heb. Ḥavvah, that is, Living, or Life. The man is represented as calling his wife by this name, because she was the mother of the whole human race. The word is evidently of great antiquity; for it is not found with this spelling in Biblical Hebrew, but in the form of ḥayyah. The sound of the name “Ḥavvah” (Eve) was sufficiently close to that of the root meaning “Life” (ḥay) to suggest connexion. Whether ḥavvah was an old form, or a name taken over from the primitive people of Palestine, we have no means of deciding.

coats of skins] in reference to v. 7. The sense of shame is the result of the knowledge of evil.

The present verse gives the traditional explanation of the origin of clothes. The word “coats” hardly represents the Hebrew so well as LXX χιτῶνας, and Lat. “tunicas,” cf. 2 Kings 1:8, Heb. 11:37. The Heb. k’thôneth (= χιτῶν) was a kind of shirt without sleeves, reaching down to the knees.

The first mention of death among animals is implied in this provision for man’s clothing. Does it contain an allusion to the otherwise unrecorded institution of sacrifice?

The Divine sentence of punishment is thus followed at once by a Divine act of pity, as if to certify that chastisement is inflicted not in anger, but in affection.

22–24. The Expulsion from the Garden

as one of us] It is not stated to whom Jehovah addresses these words. Two explanations are possible. Either (1) He speaks to the Heavenly Beings by whom the throne of God was believed to be surrounded. See notes on 1:26 and 3:5, 6:1, 11:7. “As one of us” will then mean, not “like unto Jehovah personally,” but “like to the dwellers in Heaven,” who are in the possession of “the knowledge of the distinction between good and evil.” Or (2) the words are used in the language of deliberation, and represent the Lord moved, as it were, by apprehension or displeasure, because the eating of the Tree of Knowledge had conferred upon man an attribute to which he was not entitled.

According to either line of explanation, the sentence is one which is most easily understood as one of the few survivals of the earlier myth form of narrative.

The Targum of Onkelos, to avoid the phrase “as one of us,” renders “is become one from himself.”

and now, lest, &c.] Man must be prevented from eating of the Tree of Life, and so obtaining another prerogative of Divinity, that of immortality. Man is created mortal. Immortality, obtained by disobedience and lived in sin, is not according to Jehovah’s will.

The verse contains a survival of the naïve trait in the primitive story, which represented Jehovah as jealous of the possible encroachment by man upon the prerogatives of Divinity. The serpent had referred to this (v. 5); and it appears again in 11:5.

sent him forth, &c.] Man is dismissed from the garden with the duty imposed upon him to till the ground. Agriculture is here treated as the earliest human industry. See note on v. 18.

So he drove out] The expulsion from the garden is repeated in this verse in stronger terms. In v. 23, it was “sent him forth” (LXX ἐξαπέστειλεν, Lat. emisit): here, it is “drove out” (LXX ἐξέβαλε, Lat. ejecit). Though there is a repetition which may possibly imply different narratives combined together, the milder tone of v. 23 is connected with, the description of man’s vocation to work, the sterner tone of v. 24 expresses the exclusion of sinful beings from the privileges of the Divine presence.

at the east] Implying that the entrance was on the east side. Man is driven out eastward, in accordance with the prevalent belief that the cradle of human civilization was to be sought for in the east.


Assyrian Winged Bull.

the Cherubim] Mentioned here without explanation, as if their character must be well known to the readers. The O.T. contains two representations of the Cherubim: (1) they are beings who uphold the throne of God, cf. 1 Sam. 4:4, 2 Sam. 6:2, 2 Kings 19:15, Ps. 80:2, 99:1; possibly, in this aspect, they were originally the personification of the thunder clouds, cf. Ps. 18:10. “And he (Jehovah), rode upon a cherub, and did fly,” where the passage is describing the Majesty of Jehovah in the thunderstorm: (2) they are symbols of the Divine Presence, e.g. two small golden cherubim upon the Ark of the Covenant, Ex. 25:18 ff.; two large-winged creatures made of olive wood, sheltering the Ark in the Holy of Holies, 1 Kings 6:23. They were represented in the works of sacred art in the Tabernacle, Ex. 25:18 ff.: and on the walls and furniture of the Temple, 1 Kings 6:29, 35, 7:29, 36, cf. Ezek. 41:18 ff.

The description of the four living creatures in Ezek. 1:5 ff., and 10:20 ff., gives us the Prophet’s conception of the Cherubim, each one with four faces (of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle), and each one with four wings. But in Ezek. 41:18, 19 the Cherubim have two faces, one of a man, and one of a lion. It is natural to compare the Assyrian composite figures, winged bulls, and lions with men’s heads, and the Greek γρύψ, or “gryphon.” In the present passage, the Cherubim are placed as sentinels at the approach to the Tree of Life, and, therefore, we are probably intended to understand that they stood, one on either side of the entrance to the garden, like the two winged figures at the entrance of an Assyrian temple. They are emblematical of the presence of the Almighty: they are the guardians of His abode.

the flame of a sword] It is not usually noticed that we have in these words a protection for the Tree of Life quite distinct from the Cherubim. The hasty reader supposes that the “sword” is a weapon carried by the Cherubim. In pictures, the sword with the flame turning every way is put into the hand of a watching Angel. But this misrepresents the language of the original Hebrew, which states that God placed, at the east of the garden, not only the Cherubim, but also “the flame of a sword which turned every way.” What the writer intended to convey we can only conjecture. Very probably it was a representation of the lightnings which went forth from the Divine Presence, and were symbolical of unapproachable purity and might.

The student should refer to the description of the Cherub, in Ezek. 28:11–19, and note particularly the words, v. 13, “thou wast in Eden, the garden of God,” v. 14, “thou wast the anointed Cherub that covereth: and I set thee, so that thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” (See Davidson’s Notes, in loc. in Cambridge Bible.)

The LXX τὴν φλογίνην ῥομφαίαν τὴν στρεφομένην, and Lat. flammeum gladium atque versatilem, give a good rendering of the original.

to keep the way of the tree of life] That is to “keep,” or “protect,” “the way that led to the tree of life,” so that man should not set foot upon it.

In the N.T. “the tree of life” is mentioned Rev. 2:7, “to him that overcometh, to him will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God,” cf. 22:2.

Note On The Fall

I. The following illustrations of the Story of the Fall are from Jeremias (O.T. in the Light of the Ancient East, E.T.).

(a) In Mexican mythology the first woman is called “the woman with the serpent,” or “the woman of our flesh,” and she has twin sons.… In the same way the Indians have a divine first mother of the race of man, who dwells in Paradise (the Indian Meru). Also in the beginning the evil demon Mahishasura fought with the serpent, trod upon and cut off his head; a victory to be repeated at the end of the world, when Brahma will give back to Indra the rulership over all.… The Chinese have a myth according to which Fo-hi, the first man, discovered the wisdom of Yang and Yin, masculine and feminine principle (heaven and earth).… A dragon rose from the deep and taught him. “The woman,” it is said in an explanatory gloss, “is the first source and the root of all evil” (p. 231).

(b) Legend of Eabani. The [Babylonian] epic of Gilgamesh tells about a friend of the hero, reminiscent of Pan and Priapus, Eabani, whose whole body was covered with hair. He is the creation of Aruru when she “broke off clay” and “made an image of Anu.” He is a being of a gigantic strength. “With the gazelles he eats green plants, with the cattle he satisfies himself (?) with drink, with the fish (properly crowd) he is happy in the water. He spoils the hunting of the ‘hunter.’ Out of love to the animals he destroys snares and nets (?), so that the wild beasts escape. Then by the craft of the hunter, who feared him, a woman is brought to him, who seduces him, and keeps him from his companions the beasts, for six days and seven nights. When he came back, all beasts of the field fled from him. Then Eabani followed the woman, and let himself be led into the city of Erech. In the following passages of the epic the woman appears as the cause of his troubles and sorrows. A later passage records that Eabani cursed her. The First Man is not in question here, but a certain relationship of idea in this description to the story of the happy primeval state of Adam must be granted” (p. 232 f.).

(c) Legend of Adapa. Adapa, the son of Êa, was one day fishing when “the south wind suddenly overturned his boat and he fell into the sea. Adapa in revenge broke the wings of the south wind (the bird Zu), so that he could not fly for seven days. Anu, God of Heaven, called him to account, saying, ‘No mercy!’ but at the prayer of Tammuz and Gishzida, Watchers of the Gate, Anu softened his anger, and commanded that a banquet should be prepared, and a festival garment presented to him, and oil for his anointing: garment and oil he accepted, but food and drink he refused. Êa had warned him: ‘When thou appearest before Anu, they will offer thee food of Death: eat not thereof! Water of Death will they offer thee: drink not thereof! They will present thee with a garment: put it on! They will offer thee oil: anoint thyself with it!’ But, behold, it was Bread of Life and Water of Life! Anu breaks forth in wonder. Upon the man who has been permitted by his creator to gaze into the secrets of heaven and earth …, he (Anu) has desired to bestow also immortality. And by the envy of the God the man has been deceived” (p. 183 f.).

Jastrow remarks upon this legend: “Adam, it will be recalled, after eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, makes a garment for himself. There can be no doubt that there is a close connection between this tradition and the feature in the Adapa legend, where Adapa, who has been shown the ‘secrets of heaven and earth,’—that is, has acquired knowledge—is commanded by Êa to put on the garment that is offered him. The anointing oneself with oil, though an essential part of the toilet in the ancient and modern Orient, was discarded in the Hebrew tale as a superfluous feature. The idea conveyed by the use of oil was the same as the one indicated in clothing one’s nakedness. Both are symbols of civilization which man is permitted to attain, but his development stops there. He cannot secure eternal life” (Religion of B. and A., p. 552 f.).

In this legend, the man Adapa who has acquired “knowledge,” is prevented by the deceit of Êa, the creator of man, from acquiring immortality. There is therefore a striking parallelism of idea with the narrative of Gen. 3, but there is no resemblance in its general features.

Hitherto there has not been discovered any Babylonian story of the Fall. But, when we observe the occurrence of such features as “the garden,” “the tree of life,” “the serpent,” “the Cherubim,” it is clear that the symbolism employed is that which is quite common in the records and representations of Assyrian and Babylonian myths.

II. The Story of the Fall does not offer an explanation for the origin of sin. But (1) it gives a description of the first sin; and (2) it presents an explanation of (a) the sense of shame (v. 7), (b) the toil of man (vv. 17–19), (c) the birth-pangs of woman (v. 16), (d) the use of clothing (v. 21). Whether it offers an explanation of the origin of death, is doubtful. The penalty of death, threatened in 2:17, was not carried out. In 3:19 it is assumed that man will die, if he does not eat of the tree of life. He is not, therefore, created immortal; yet immortality is not impossible for him.

The story turns upon man’s eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What is this “knowledge of good and evil”? Four answers have been given. (1) Initiation into the mysteries of magical knowledge. (2) Transition to the physical maturity of which the sense of shame is the natural symptom (3:7). (3) Acquisition of the knowledge of the secrets of nature and the gifts of civilization, e.g. clothing (3:21), arts, industries, &c. (4:17 ff.). (4) Arrival at the moral sense of discernment between right and wrong.

Of these, (1) the first may at once be dismissed as quite alien to the general tenour of the story.

(2) The second emphasizes one feature in the story (3:7, 10, 21), the sense of shame on account of nakedness. But this new consciousness of sex is only one symptom of the results of disobedience. As an explanation, though possibly adequate for some earlier version of the story, it fails to satisfy the requirements of its present religious character.

(3) The third explanation goes further. It supposes that the knowledge is of that type which afterwards characterizes the descendants of Cain (4:17 ff.). It implies the expansion of culture with deliberate defiance of God’s will. It means, then, simply the intellectual knowledge of “everything,” or, in the Babylonian phrase, of the “secrets of heaven and earth.” Cf. Jastrow, p. 553 n.

(4) The fourth explanation has been objected to on the ground that God could not originally have wished to exclude man from the power of discerning between good and evil. Notwithstanding, it seems to be the one most in harmony with the general religious character of the story, which turns upon the act of disobedience to God’s command, and upon the assertion of man’s will against the Divine. It may, of course, fairly be asked whether the fact of prohibition did not assume the existence of a consciousness of the difference between right and wrong. We need not expect the story to be psychologically scientific. But the prohibition was laid down in man’s condition of existence previous to temptation. It was possible to receive a Divine command without realizing the moral effect of disobedience. The idea of violating that command had not presented itself before the Serpent suggested it. Conscience was not created, but its faculties were instantaneously aroused into activity, by disobedience. “It is not the thought of the opposition and difference between good and evil …, but it is the experience of evil, that knowledge of good and evil which arises from man having taken evil into his very being, which brings death with it. Man, therefore, ought to know evil only as a possibility that he has overcome; he ought only to see the forbidden fruit; but if he eats it, his death is in the act.” (Martensen, Christian Dogmatics, p. 156.)

III. (a) It does not appear that the Story of the Fall is elsewhere alluded to in the Old Testament. The passages in Job 31:33, “If like Adam I covered my transgressions,” Hos. 6:7, “But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant,” are doubtful exceptions. But, in all probability, in both cases the rendering of adam, not as a proper name, but as “man” or “men,” is to be preferred. There is, indeed, a reference to the “garden of Eden” tradition in Ezek. 28. But there is no instance, either in the prophetical or sapiential writings, in which the Story of the Fall is made the basis for instruction upon the subject of sin and its consequences. “The Old Testament,” as Mr Tennant says2, “supplies no trace of the existence, among the sacred writers, of any interpretation of the Fall-story comparable to the later doctrine of the Fall.” At the same time, there is no ancient literature comparable to the writings of the O.T. for the deep consciousness of the sinfulness of man in God’s sight.

The later Jewish literature shews how prominently the subject of the first sin and of man’s depravity entered into the thought and discussions of the Jews in the last century b.c. and in the first century a.d.

(b) The most notable of the passages referring to the Fall, which illustrate the theology of St Paul, are as follows:

Rom. 5:12–14, “Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned:—for until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come.” v. 18, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.” 1 Cor. 15:21–22, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” 2 Cor. 11:3, “The serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness.” 1 Tim. 2:14, “Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression.”

In Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15 St Paul compares the consequences of the Fall of Adam with the consequences of the redemptive work of Christ. Adam’s Fall brought with it sin and death: Christ’s justifying Act brought righteousness and life. The effects of Adam’s sin were transmitted to his descendants. Sin, the tendency to sin, and death, became in consequence universal. But the effect of Adam’s Fall has been cancelled by the work of Grace, by the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

For a full discussion of St Paul’s treatment of the Fall, see Sanday and Headlam’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (chap. v.), Bishop Gore’s Lectures on the Romans (vol. i. pp. 185 ff.), Thackeray’s St Paul and Jewish Thought (chap. ii.), Tennant’s The Fall and Original Sin (chap. xi.), Bernard’s article Fall in Hastings’ D.B. (vol. i.).

(c) The following passages, quoted from Charles’ Apocrypha, will illustrate Jewish religious thought upon the subject of the Fall and its consequences:

Wisd. 2:23, 24, “Because God created man for incorruption, and made him an image of his own proper being; But by the envy of the devil death entered into the world, and they that belong to his realm; experience it.”

Ecclus. 25:24, “From a woman did sin originate, and because of her we must all die.”

4 Ezra 3:7, “And to him [Adam] thou commandedst only one observance of thine, but he transgressed it. Forthwith thou appointedst death for him and for his generations.”

4 Ezra 3:21, “For the first Adam, clothing himself with the evil heart, transgressed and was overcome; and likewise also all who were born of him. Thus the infirmity became inveterate; the Law indeed was in the heart of the people, but (in conjunction) with the evil germ; so what was good departed.” Cf. 4:30, 31.

4 Ezra 7:118, “O thou Adam, what hast thou done! For though it was thou that sinned, the fall was not thine alone, but ours also who are thy descendants!”

2 Baruch xvii. 2, 3, “For what did it profit Adam that he lived nine hundred and thirty years, and transgressed that which he was commanded? Therefore the multitude of time that he lived did not profit him, but brought death, and cut off the years of those who were born from him.”

2 Baruch xxiii. 4, “When Adam sinned and death was decreed against those who should be born.”

2 Baruch xlviii. 42, “O Adam, what hast thou done to all those who are born from thee? And what will be said to the first Eve who hearkened to the Serpent?”

2 Baruch liv. 15, 19, “Though Adam first sinned and brought untimely death upon all, yet of those who were born from him each one of them has prepared for his own soul torment to come.… Adam is therefore not the cause, save only of his own soul, But each of us has been the Adam of his own soul.”

2 Baruch lvi. 6, “For when he [Adam] transgressed, untimely death came into being.”

It will be observed that in some of these passages, e.g. 2 Baruch liv. 15, 19, the spiritual consequences of Adam’s Fall are in the main limited to Adam himself. Jewish thought was not agreed upon the question whether all men inherited from Adam a tendency to sin, or whether each man enjoyed freedom of choice and responsibility. Both views could be supported from St Paul’s words, “Through the disobedience of the one the many were made sinners,” “And so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.”

(d) The teaching of the Talmud is summed up by Weber: “Free will remained to man after the Fall. There is such a thing as transmission of guilt, but not a transmission of sin (es gibt eine Erbschuld, aber keine Erbsünde); the fall of Adam occasioned death to the whole race, but not sinfulness in the sense of a necessity to sin. Sin is the result of the decision of each individual; as experience shows it is universal, but in itself even after the Fall it was not absolutely necessary” (quoted by Thackeray, ut supra, p. 38). Compare the Midrash Bemidbar Rabba, chap. xiii.; “When Adam transgressed the command of the Holy One, and ate of the tree, the Holy One demanded of him penitence, thereby revealing to him the means of freedom (i.e. from the result of his sin), but Adam would not show penitence.”

(e) Christian doctrine has been much influenced by the teaching of the Fall. But it is not too much to say that speculation upon Original Sin and the effects of the Fall of Adam has too often been carried into subtleties that have no warrant either in Holy Scripture or in reason. “Speaking broadly, the Greek view was simply that ‘the original righteousness’ of the race was lost; the effect of Adam’s sin was a privatio, an impoverishment of human nature which left the power of the will unimpaired. But the Latin writers who followed Augustine took a darker view of the consequences of the Fall. It is for them a depravatio naturae; the human will is disabled; there is left a bias towards evil which can be conquered only by grace.” (Bernard, art. Fall, D.B.)

According to St Augustine, Adam’s sin was the abandonment of God, and his punishment was abandonment by God. Adam forfeited the adjutorium of grace. His will was no longer capable of good. In virtue of the “corporate personality” of Adam, all in Adam sinned voluntarily in him. All shared his guilt. This idea of the whole race being tainted with Adam’s act of sin, rests partly upon the exaggerated emphasis laid upon the Roman legal phrase of “imputation,” partly upon the mistranslation, “in quo,” of St Paul’s words ἐφʼ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον, as if it were “in whom all sinned,” instead of “in that all sinned.”

The Fathers very generally held that original righteousness, which combined natural innocence and the grace of God granted to Adam, was lost at the Fall: and that man, therefore, lost primaeval innocence and the Divine Spirit simultaneously.

(f) Thomas Aquinas went still further in the systematization of the doctrine. Mr Wheeler Robinson gives the following summary: “The immediate result of the Fall was the loss of man’s original righteousness, that is, of the harmonious inter-relation of his nature, through the complete withdrawal of the gift of grace and the decrease of his inclination to virtue (I. b, Q. lxxxv. 1). The disorder of his nature, when uncontrolled by grace, shews itself materially in concupiscentia and formally in the want of original righteousness (I. b, Q. lxxxii. 3), these two elements constituting the ‘original sin’ which passed to Adam’s descendants with the accompanying ‘guilt’ (I. b, lxxxi. 3).… all men are one, through the common nature they receive from Adam. As in the individual the will moves the several members, so in the race the will of Adam moves those sprung from him” (I. b, lxxxi. 1). (The Christian Doctrine of Man, p. 206 f.)

The Council of Trent, Sessio Quinta §§ 2, 3, June 17, 1546, in the “Decree concerning Original Sin,” laid down the following dogma: “If any one asserts that the prevarication of Adam injured himself alone, and not his posterity; and that the holiness and justice, received of God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone, and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has only transfused death and pains of the body into the human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul; let him be anathema: whereas he contradicts the apostle who says: By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom (in quo) all have sinned” … “this sin of Adam,—which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propagation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own.…” (Schaff’s Creeds of the Gr. and Lat. Churches, p. 85.)

(g) XXXIX Articles. “Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption (vitium et depravatio) of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone (quam longissime distet) from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to do evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit, and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection (depravatio) of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated (in renatis).…” (Art. ix. Of original or Birth Sin.)

“The condition of man after the fall of Adam (post lapsum Adae) is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God.…” (Art. x. Free Will.)

For a valuable series of discussions, in which traditional Christian doctrine respecting “Original Sin” and the “Fall of Adam” is criticized, see The Origin and Propagation of Sin (1909), The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin (1903), The Concept of Sin (1912) by the Rev. F. R. Tennant, D.D., B.Sc., Cambridge University Press.

The problem has very largely been modified by modern enquiry, both as regards the origin of the race and the character of the Scripture narrative. Christian doctrine is no longer fettered by the methods of the Schoolmen. Modern philosophy of religion, assisted by the newer studies of sociology, anthropology, and comparative religion, is beginning to revise our conceptions both of personality and of sin. It is inevitable, that, in the larger horizon which has opened up, the attempt should be made to restate Christian thought in reference to the nature of “sin,” of “guilt,” and of “personal freedom.”

In conclusion, the following extract from Sanday and Headlam’s Note on Rom. 5:12–21 (p. 146 f.) will repay the student’s careful consideration:

“The tendency to sin is present in every man who is born into the world. But the tendency does not become actual sin until it takes effect in defiance of an express command, in deliberate disregard of a known distinction between right and wrong. How men came to be possessed of such a command, by what process they arrived at the conscious distinction of right and wrong, we can but vaguely speculate. Whatever it was, we may be sure that it could not have been presented to the imagination of primitive peoples otherwise than in such simple forms as the narrative assumes in the Book of Genesis. The really essential truths all come out in that narrative—the recognition of the Divine Will, the act of disobedience to the Will so recognised, the perpetuation of the tendency to such disobedience; and we may add perhaps, though here we get into a region of surmises, the connexion between moral evil and physical decay, for the surest pledge of immortality is the relation of the highest part of us, the soul, through righteousness to God. These salient principles, which may have been due in fact to a process of gradual accretion through long periods, are naturally and inevitably summed up as a group of single incidents. Their essential character is not altered, and in the interpretation of primitive beliefs we may safely remember that ‘a thousand years in the sight of God are but as one day.’ We who believe in Providence and who believe in the active influence of the Spirit of God upon man, may well also believe that the tentative gropings of the primaeval savage were assisted and guided and so led up to definite issues, to which he himself perhaps at the time could hardly give a name but which he learnt to call ‘sin’ and ‘disobedience,’ and the tendency to which later ages also saw to have been handed on from generation to generation in a way which we now describe as ‘heredity.’ It would be absurd to expect the language of modern science in the prophet who first incorporated the traditions of his race in the Sacred Books of the Hebrews. He uses the only kind of language available to his own intelligence and that of his contemporaries. But if the language which he does use is from that point of view abundantly justified, then the application which St Paul makes of it is equally justified. He, too, expresses truth through symbols, and in the days when men can dispense with symbols his teaching may be obsolete, but not before.”

Ch. 4:1–16. The Narrative of Cain and Abel. (J.)

The vivid interest, which this section inspires, sometimes causes it to be forgotten that we have here the only tradition relating to the family life of Adam and Eve.

The narrative, as we have it, is evidently intended to describe the spread of sin, its hereditary character, and its issue in violent deeds and death. It is conceivable that J preserved other ancient narratives in which the Hebrew folk-lore recounted the sayings and doings of the first family and their descendants. They might have answered the questions which the gaps in the present narrative inevitably raise; e.g. what was the origin of sacrifice (v. 3)? why was Cain’s sacrifice rejected (v. 5)? whose vengeance did Cain fear (v. 14)? did Cain confess his deed to his parents? who was Cain’s wife (v. 17)? who lived in the city which Cain built (v. 17)? As it is, such questions are incapable of being answered, except by conjecture. Only such portions of the Hebrew folk-lore have been incorporated from the J source of narrative as seemed likely to serve the religious purpose of the book.

Our curiosity remains unsatisfied. The narratives, more especially in the early part of Genesis, obviously make no claim to be regarded as complete. They are brief, disjointed, and fragmentary excerpts from Hebrew tradition, recording the popular belief respecting the infancy of the human race.

In its original setting, the narrative of Cain and Abel may have been intended to give an account of the first murder, and to supply the origin of blood-revenge. At any rate, the absence of any reference to Adam and Eve between v. 2 and v. 24 is very noticeable.

1, 2.    The birth of Cain and Abel.

3–7.    The sacrifices of Cain and Abel: Abel’s accepted, Cain’s rejected: Cain’s anger; Jehovah’s remonstrance.

8–15.    Cain’s murder of Abel: the curse of Jehovah: Cain’s fear, and the sign of Jehovah for his protection.

16.    Cain an exile.

Cain … gotten] Heb. ḳanah, to get. The word “Cain” does not mean “gotten”; but Eve’s joyful utterance gives a popular etymology, which derived the proper name from the verb whose pronunciation it resembled. The word “Cain” (Ḳayin) means in Hebrew “a lance”; and by some the name is interpreted to mean “a smith.” Its relation to Tubal-Cain “the artificer” is doubtful (see v. 24). That the name is to be identified with that of the nomad tribe of the “Kenites” (cf. Num. 24:22, Judg. 4:11) is a view which has been strongly maintained by some scholars. But the evidence seems to be very slight. The Kenites were not traditionally hostile to Israel, and did not play any important part in the history of the people so far as is known. The fact that the name appears in another form, “Kenan,” in the genealogy (chap. 5:9–14) should warn us against hasty identifications. Pronunciation notoriously suffers through transmission, and spelling of proper names is wont to be adapted to the sound of more familiar words.

Eve gives her child its name as in v. 24. It has been pointed out that elsewhere, where the mother is mentioned in J and E, she gives the name, cf. 29:32–35, 30:1–24 (but see 4:26, 5:29, 25:25); whereas, in P, the father gives the name, cf. 21:3. That the mother should name the child, has been considered to be a survival of a primitive “matriarchal” phase of society: see note on 2:24. But the inference is very doubtful.

I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord] Literally, “I acquired (or, have acquired) man, even Jahveh.” Eve’s four words in the Hebrew (ḳānîthi îsh eth-Yahveh) are as obscure as any oracle.

(i) The difficulty was felt at a very early time, and is reflected in the versions LXX διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, Lat. per Deum, in which, as R.V., the particle êth is rendered as a preposition in the sense of “in conjunction with,” and so “with the help of,” “by the means of.”

König, who holds an eminent position both as a commentator and as a Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer, has recently strongly defended the rendering of êth as a preposition meaning “with,” in the sense here given by the English version “with the help of” (see Z.A.T.W. 1912, Pt i, pp. 22 ff.). The words will then express the thanksgiving of Eve on her safe deliverance of a child. It is a pledge of Divine favour. Child-birth has been “with the help of the Lord.”

(ii) The Targum of Onkelos reads mê-êth = “from” (instead of êth = “with”), and so gets rid of the difficulty: “I have gotten a man from Jehovah,” i.e. as a gift from the Lord. But this is so easy an alteration that it looks like a correction, and can scarcely be regarded as the original text. Praestat lectio difficilior.

(iii) According to the traditional Patristic and mediaeval interpretation, the sentence admitted of a literal rendering in a Messianic sense: “I have gotten a man, even Jehovah,” i.e. “In the birth of a child I have gotten one in whom I foresee the Incarnation of the Lord.” But, apart from the inadmissibility of this N.T. thought, it is surely impossible that the Messianic hope should thus be associated with the name of Cain. The Targum of Palestine, however, has “I have acquired a man, the Angel of the Lord.”

(iv) Another direction of thought is given by the proposed alternative rendering: “I obtained as a husband (i.e. in my husband) Jehovah,” in other words, I discern that in marriage is a Divine Gift. Perhaps the Targum of Palestine meant this, “I obtained as a husband the Angel of the Lord”: my husband is the expression to me of the Divine good-will which I have received. The objection, however, to this interpretation is that it is the reverse of simple and natural. It makes Eve’s words go back to marriage relations, instead of to the birth of her child.

(v) Conjectural emendations have been numerous, and ingenious. Thus, at one time, Gunkel conjectured ethavveh for eth-Yahveh, i.e. “I have gotten a son that I longed for”; the unusual word ethavveh accounted, in his opinion, for the easier reading eth-Yahveh. But in his last edition (1908) the conjecture does not appear.

Abel] Heb. Hebel = “breath,” or “vapour,” a name suggestive of fleeting life, cf. Job 7:16. No better explanation of the name is given. Assyriologists have suggested that the name reproduces the Assyrian aplu = “a son.” But it is doubtful whether the resemblance is anything more than accidental. At any rate, no Babylonian version of this narrative has yet come to light. More probable is the suggestion that “Hebel” might represent a form of “Jabal,” as the keeper of sheep (cf. v. 20). As in the case of Cain (see above), the original form and significance of proper names preserved in primitive folk-lore must be extremely uncertain. In the course of the transmission and repetition of the narrative, less known names would continually be altered to forms which would suggest familiar ideas.

keeper of sheep] Abel is here mentioned first, as the representative of pastoral life. Cain follows the agricultural life, which was commanded for Adam in 3:17, 23. The calling of Abel is one for which the Israelites had a special fondness. The metaphors taken from the shepherd and the sheep are among the most frequent and the most striking in Holy Scripture.

in process of time] Lit. “at the end of days,” a phrase for a period of quite indefinite length; LXX μεθʼ ἡμέρας; Lat. post multos dies.

of the fruit of the ground] Probably the best, or the earliest, of the fruit, corresponding to the “firstlings” in Abel’s offering. Cf. Num. 18:12, “All the best (Heb. fat) of the oil, and all the best (Heb. fat) of the vintage, and of the corn.”

an offering] Heb. minḥah, lit. a “gift” or a “present,” as in 32:13, when Jacob sends “a present for Esau his brother,” and in 43:11, where he says unto his sons, “carry the man down a present.” The word is used especially for “a gift” made to God; and with that sense, especially in P and Ezek., of the “meal offering,” cf. Lev. 2, 6:7–10. Here it is used of “offerings to God” generally, both of animals and of the fruits of the earth.

This is the first mention of sacrifice in Scripture. Its origin is not explained, nor is an altar mentioned. Man is assumed to be by nature endowed with religious instincts, and capable of holding converse with God. Worship was man’s mode of approach to the Deity; and sacrifice was its outward expression. The purpose of the offering was (1) propitiatory, to win favour, or to avert displeasure; and (2) eucharistic, in expression of gratitude for blessings on home or industry. It was deemed wrong to approach God with empty hands, that is, without an offering or gift, Ex. 23:15, 25:30.

the firstlings] i.e. “the firstborn,” regarded as the best and choicest, cf. Ex. 34:19; Num. 18:17; Prov. 3:9.

the fat] i.e. the fatty portions, which were regarded as choicest for the purpose of a banquet (cf. 1 Sam. 2:16), or for burning in sacrifice, Is. 1:11, “the fat of fed beasts.”

had respect unto] i.e. looked with favour upon. In the two passages which it is natural to quote in illustration of this expression, Num. 16:15, “Respect not thou their offering,” and Amos 5:22, “Neither will I regard the peace-offerings,” the Hebrew has a different verb, but the Latin renders, as here, by respicere.

How the favourable regard was expressed we are not told. See note on the next verse.

but unto Cain] In what way the Divine displeasure was conveyed is not recorded. The suggestion that fire from heaven consumed the offering of Abel, but left that of Cain untouched, is a pure conjecture based upon the group of passages in the O.T., in which the fire from God attested the approval of the sacrifice, Lev. 9:24; Judg. 6:21, 13:19, 20; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chr. 21:26; 2 Chr. 7:1; 1 Macc. 2:10, 11.

It is a serious omission, also, that we are left to conjecture the reason for the favour shewn to Abel and withheld from Cain. We can hardly doubt, that in the original form of the story the reason was stated; and, if so, that the reason represented in the folk-lore of Israel would not have been in harmony with the religious teaching of the book.

Taking, therefore, the omission of the reason in conjunction with the language of vv. 6, 7, and with the general religious purport of the context, we should probably be right in interring that the passage, as it stands, intends to ascribe the difference in the acceptability of the two offerings to the difference in the spirit with which they had been made. Jehovah looked at the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7). Thus the first mention of worship in Holy Scripture seems to emphasize the fundamental truth that the worth of worship lies in the spirit of the worshipper, cf. John 4:24, “God is spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” This is the thought of Heb. 11:4, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.… God bearing witness in respect of his gifts.”

The following conjectures have at different times been put forward to explain the preference of Jehovah:

(a) It has been suggested that Abel’s offering was preferred, because it consisted of flesh, and that Cain’s was rejected, because it consisted of vegetable produce. Each man offered of the fruits of his work and calling. Did the original story contain a condemnation of the agricultural as compared with the pastoral calling? But Adam was commanded to till the ground (2:15, 3:19).

(b) The old Jewish explanation was that Cain had failed to perform the proper ritual of his offering, and therefore incurred the Divine displeasure: see note on the LXX of v. 7. But, again, if so, it has to be assumed that Divine directions upon the ritual of service had previously been communicated to man.

(c) The common Christian explanation that Cain’s sacrifice, being “without shedding of blood” (Heb. 9:22. cf. Lev. 17:11), could not find acceptance, equally assumes that the right kind of sacrifice had previously been Divinely instituted, and that Cain’s rejection was, therefore, due to the wilful violation of a positive command as well as to the infringement of sacrificial rule.

In the silence of the narrative respecting the origin of the institution of sacrifice, these conjectures are merely guess-work, and must be considered more or less fanciful.

his countenance fell] A picture true to nature and more familiar than easy to express in any other words.

The passage illustrates the progress of sin in Cain’s heart. Firstly, disappointment and wounded pride, aggravated by envy of his brother, lead to anger; secondly, anger unrestrained, and brooding sullenly over an imaginary wrong, rouses the spirit of revenge; thirdly, revenge seeks an outlet in passion, and vents itself in violence and murder.

And the Lord said, &c.] Whether Jehovah appeared in a visible form, or spoke to Cain in a dream or vision, is not recorded. The importance of the interrogation lies in the fact, that Jehovah mercifully intervenes to arrest the progress of evil thoughts, by simple words demanding self-examination.

If thou doest well, &c.] A verse well known for its difficulties. The rendering in the marg. “shall it not be lifted up?” should be followed. Literally the first clause runs thus: “Is there not, if thou doest well, to lift up?” The infinitive “to lift up” must be taken as an infinitival substantive = “a lifting up,” with reference, in all probability, to the previous phrase, “the falling” of Cain’s countenance. The meaning then is, “If thou doest well, and makest thy offering with a pure and right motive, thy face, instead of falling, shall be lifted up in happiness.” This, on the whole, seems better than the alternative rendering “is there not forgiveness?” The word “to lift up” admits of the meaning “to forgive,” but is hardly likely to be used in this sense without an object, and before any mention of sin has been made.

sin coucheth] The meaning is, “and, if thou doest not well and cherishest evil in thy heart, then, remember, sin, like a savage wild beast, is lying in ambush ready to spring out upon you.”

“Sin” is here mentioned for the first time. Ḥattâ’th has a varied significance, and might here mean either “guilt,” or “punishment,” or “the active principle of sin.” And in view of the personification in the next clause, this last meaning is here to be preferred.

The Hebrew text of v. 7 is probably corrupt.

The LXX took the first clause to refer to a ritual inaccuracy in sacrifice, and mistranslated the words “sin coucheth,” failing to perceive the metaphor: οὐκ, ἐὰν ὀρθῶς προσενέγκῃς, ὀρθῶς δὲ μὴ διέλῃς, ἥμαρτες; ἡσύχασον. “If thou madest thine offering rightly, but didst not rightly divide it, didst thou not sin? hold thy peace.” In other words: “you broke the ritual rules of offering; you have no right to complain.”

The Latin reads: Nonne, si bene egeris, recipies? sin autem male, statim in foribus peccatum aderit; sed sub te erit appetitus ejus, et tu dominaberis illius.

shall be his desire, &c.] Better, as marg., “is its desire, but thou shouldest rule over it.” Evil, like a savage animal, is ravening for thee; but thou hast strength, if thou hast the will, to overcome it. The alternative rendering of the text, “his desire … over him,” introduces the idea of one brother’s authority over the other, which seems foreign to the context.

The metaphor of sin as a wild beast ready at any moment to spring upon, and get the mastery of, the man who will not make the effort to do what he knows to be right, embodies deep spiritual truth. The evil passions, always ready to take advantage of the will that refuses to hear the voice of the better self, have often in literature been likened to a wild beast, cf. Tennyson’s In Memoriam, Canto 118:

“Arise and fly

The reeling Faun, the sensual feast;

Move upward, working out the beast,

And let the ape and tiger die”;

and George Meredith’s expression: “The unfailing, aboriginal, democratic, old monster, that waits to pull us down” (Diana of the Crossways, p. 14, edit. 1892).

his desire … rule over] The phrase is identical with that in 3:16, but obviously the words have a different signification suitable to the context. That these words should refer to the younger brother is the interpretation of the text (R.V.), to which no exception can be taken on lexical or grammatical grounds. But the relation of a younger to an elder brother is not that which is likely to be described in this way. It is better to refer the phrase to the personification of sin, over which Cain can, if he will, obtain the mastery.

told] Heb. said unto, which is the only possible meaning of the original. The rendering “told” implies that Cain repeated to Abel, his brother, the words spoken to him by Jehovah. But this is not the meaning of the original, which is, “Cain said unto Abel his brother”; some words, which are wanting in the Hebrew text, either having been intentionally omitted by the compiler, or accidentally dropped by carelessness in transcription. As the R.V. margin states, “many ancient authorities [Sam., LXX, Syr. Pesh., and Ps. Jon.] read said unto Abel his brother, Let us go into the field“; LXX, διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον; Lat. egrediamur foras. This addition has all the appearance of an insertion, supplied to fill up an obvious gap, and borrowed from the next verse. Gunkel proposes to read, instead of “and said” (vayyômer), “and was bitter” (vayyêmer), i.e. “and made a quarrel.” Here, as in the preceding verse, we have probably an instance of a very early disturbance of the text.

Possibly, the words spoken by Cain to his brother Abel contained some allusion which seemed wanting in the right spirit towards the faith and worship of the God of Israel, and were omitted without other words being substituted.

the field] i.e. having left the sacred place, shrine or altar, where they had offered their sacrifices. An allusion to such a spot might well have been omitted as unsuitable.

rose up] preliminary to assault: see Judg. 8:21; 2 Sam. 2:14; 2 Kings 3:24.

And the Lord said, &c.] The condensed narrative does not say whether Cain tried to conceal the body of Abel, or had fled at once from the spot. Apparently Jehovah speaks to him suddenly, when at a distance from the scene of the murder. The process of interrogation may be compared with that in 3:9–13.

I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?] Cain’s reply consists of (a) a statement which is a falsehood; and (b) a question which is defiance. “Keeper,” perhaps with reference, in a mocking tone, to Abel’s occupation as a keeper of sheep. “Am I the keeper’s keeper?”

The first words of the first murderer renounce the obligations of brotherhood. The rejection of the family bond is the negation of love; it is the spirit of murder; cf. 1 John 3:12, 15.

What hast thou done?] The same question as that put to Eve (3:13). This question has been put by the voice of conscience to every murderer since Cain; it had a special force in reference to the first man done to death by his brother.

the voice of thy brother’s blood] Probably it would be more accurate to translate, as Driver, “Hark! thy brother’s blood, &c.” The word “blood” in the Hebrew is plural, and the word “crieth” is in the plural agreeing with it. The Hebrew for “voice” (ḳôl) should similarly be rendered “Hark!,” instead of “noise,” in Isa. 13:4, and instead of “the voice of,” in Isa. 52:8; see Heb. Lexicon.

The Hebrew idea was that blood shed, for which there was no avenger, cried to Jehovah for vengeance against the murderer. Jehovah has learned of Abel’s murder from the cry of his blood spilt upon the ground. Another Hebrew belief was that, if only the blood were covered with earth, it would be silent. Cf. Job 16:18, “Oh! earth, cover not thou my blood and let my cry have no resting-place”; Isa. 26:21, “The earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain”; Ezek. 24:7. To this ancient supposition there is an allusion in Heb. 12:14, “the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel.”

“In the picturesque legend of the Arabs, there rose from the blood (or bones) of the slain man the ‘death-owl,’ which shrieked, ‘Give me to drink,’ until it was appeased by the blood of vengeance.” (Gordon’s Early Traditions of Genesis, p. 203.)

from the ground] The meaning is not quite obvious. Probably, we should not understand, that the curse is to come from the ground upon Cain, but that Cain is driven by Jehovah’s curse from the ground. The emphasis is on “the ground” (hâ-adâmâh). It is the ground which Cain tilled, the ground whose fruits he offered, and the ground which he has caused to drink human blood. From this ground he is now driven by a curse. For pollution of the land by bloodshed cf. Num. 35:33, “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood, it polluteth the land: and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”

On blood-revenge, cf. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage, pp. 25–27.

when thou tillest, &c.] The meaning is, that when, or if, after this curse, Cain continues to till the ground, the ground will refuse to give a return for his labour. Therefore, he will not be able to live on the cultivated ground. He must leave it and wander forth.

her strength] That is, “her fruits.” So the Vulg. “fructus suos.” The word “strength” is used in this sense for the produce of the soil in Job 31:39, “If I have eaten the fruits (marg. Heb. strength) thereof (i.e. of the land) without money.”

a fugitive and a wanderer] The alliteration of the two words in the original (n’â vâ-nâd) is difficult to reproduce in English. The word for “a fugitive” means “one who staggers, or reels,” from weakness, faintness, or weariness.

“Weary and wandering,” or “staggering and straying” would be attempts at reproducing the original. The LXX στένων καὶ τρέμως = “groaning and trembling,” is more of a comment than a translation; and the Lat. “vagus et profugus,” like the English version, is inexact.

Two points are to be noticed in this sentence upon Cain:

(1) He is sent forth from the cultivated soil: in other words, he is banished into the desert. He is to lead the life, neither of the shepherd, nor of the tiller of the soil, but of the roaming Bedouin of the desert.

(2) His wandering is not the result of a guilty conscience, but of a Divine sentence. It is his penalty to lead the nomad life of the desert, homeless and insecure and restless. Whereas Adam was banished from the garden to till the soil (3:17), now that soil is to refuse its fruits to Cain, and he must fly into the desert.

And Cain said] The bitter cry of Cain is not that of repentance for his sin, but of entreaty for the mitigation of his doom.

My punishment] Better than marg. mine iniquity. The Hebrew word is used to denote both guilt and its penalty, and consequently is sometimes ambiguous, e.g. 1 Sam. 28:10, “And Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall be no punishment happen to thee (marg. guilt come upon thee) for this thing.” In our verse the rendering “punishment” is to be preferred. Cain in v. 14 is thinking of his sentence, not of his sin.

than I can bear] The rendering of the margin, than can be forgiven, which is that of the versions, though possible, is not to be preferred. It has sometimes been advocated on the ground that the “iniquity” of Cain was typical of the sin “that is unto death” (1 John 5:16), and that cannot be forgiven (St Mark 3:29). LXX μείζων ἡ αἰτία μου τοῦ ἀφεθῆναί με. Lat. major est iniquitas mea quam ut veniam merear. Similarly Targum of Onkelos: cf. Ps. 38:4, “As an heavy burden, they [mine iniquities] are too heavy for me.”

Behold, thou hast, &c.] Cain accepts Jehovah’s sentence as a banishment from the cultivated ground. “And from thy face shall I be hid,” Cain recognizes that banishment from the land, in which Jehovah’s presence was manifested, implied expulsion from Jehovah’s presence. In the desert to which he was to flee, Jehovah would not be found: Cain would be hidden from His face. The early Israelites believed that, if a man was driven from the land in which Jehovah was worshipped, he was no longer in the presence of Jehovah, but of other gods. Thus David says, 1 Sam. 26:19, “they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave unto the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods.” The desert to which Cain would be driven was a region believed to be haunted by the demon Azazel (Lev. 16:8) and dangerous spirits.

whosoever findeth me, &c.] Of whom was Cain afraid? Different answers have been given. 1. The wild beasts (Josephus). 2. A pre-Adamite race of man. 3. Other sons of Adam. 4. It has been suggested that the present story formed part of a tradition originally referring to a later time, when the earth was numerously inhabited, and has been adapted, on account of its moral significance, to the story of the first family. But it is unreasonable to expect from the detached narratives of early folk-lore the logical completeness of history. Cain’s words are rightly understood as a reference to the custom of blood-revenge, which went back to the remotest prehistoric age. The cultivated land was regarded as the region in which there prevailed social order and regard for life; but in the desert there would be none of the restrictions which regulated the existence of settled communities.

In the desert Cain, as the murderer, would be destitute of the protection of Jehovah. He would have no rights of kinship: anyone might slay him with impunity. He would find no friendly tribe; he would be an outlaw.

Therefore] i.e. on account of Cain’s entreaty, Jehovah’s mercy is shewn to the first murderer. Cain has no friend: Jehovah, by an act of benevolence and authority, will protect him, and undertake his cause even in the desert.

A slight variation in text accounts for LXX οὐχ οὕτως, Lat. Nequa-quam ita fiet.

vengeance … sevenfold] i.e. if Cain were killed, seven deaths would be exacted in retaliation; the murderer and six of his family would forfeit their lives, cf. 2 Sam. 21:8. The words of Jehovah are noticeable, because (1) they emphasize the corporate responsibility of family life, which so often meets us in the O.T.; and (2) they recognize, but regulate, blood-revenge, as a disciplinary primaeval custom of Semitic life. This Oriental custom, while recognized in the O.T. as part of Israelite institutions, is continually being restricted by the operation of the spirit of love, gradually revealed by prophet and by law, in the religion of Jehovah.

the Lord appointed a sign for Cain] The popular expression “the brand of Cain,” in the sense of “the sign of a murderer,” arises from a complete misunderstanding of this passage. The object of the sign was to protect Cain. It was a warning that should prevent the avenger of blood from slaying him. Even in the desert Jehovah would be Cain’s champion. We have no means of knowing what the sign was. The words imply that some visible mark, or badge, was set upon Cain’s person. If so, it may have some analogy to the totem mark of savage tribes. “There seems little doubt, that the sign which Jahveh gave to Cain … was a tattoo mark, probably on his forehead (cf. Ezek. 9:4, 6), to show all men that Cain was under His protection, and thus to save his life. In all probability the mark was the ‘sign of Jahveh,’ the tav (Ezek. 9:4, 6)—which was once doubtless worn quite openly by His devotees, and only afterwards degenerated into a superstition.” (Gordon, Early Traditions of Genesis, p. 211.)

from the presence of] Cf. 14, “from thy face.” Cain going out “from the presence of” Jehovah, quits the land in which that presence was revealed. Jonah in fleeing from Palestine fled “from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3).

in the land of Nod] That is, Wandering, cf. the word “wanderer” (nâd) in vv. 12 and 14. This region cannot be identified; it serves as a vague designation for all the country in the unknown East, which was thought to be inhabited only by nomads.

on the east of] This rendering, like the Lat. ad orientalem plagam, is preferable to that of the marg. in front of (LXX κατέναντι). See notes on 2:14 and 3:24.

17–24. The Descendants of Cain: The Genealogy of the Cainites. (J.)

See the Special Note on “the Antediluvian Patriarchs,” pp. 88 ff. The traditions preserved in this section probably belong to a different J source from that of the verses immediately preceding. This will explain how it is that Cain, who has just been condemned to a nomad life and has withdrawn into the land of “Wandering” (Nod), is in v. 17 described as the founder of a city, and as the ancestor of men who originated the industries and callings of civilization.

his wife] On the question, Who was Cain’s wife? see note at the beginning of the chapter. If the narrative be homogeneous, she must have been either a daughter of Eve, or of a family of whose contemporaneous origin and existence this narrative in Genesis gives no account. But the compilation of our primitive story from different sources necessarily leaves many questions unanswered. No attempt is made to remove this and similar obvious inconsistencies.

Enoch] Heb. Ḥănôkh = “dedication”: the same name occurs in v. 18; see note. It is also the name of a Midianite clan, 25:4; 1 Chron. 1:33; and of a Reubenite clan, 46:9; Ex. 6:14.

builded a city] It seems strange that we should have the mention of a city at a time when the inhabitants of the world were so few. But the purpose of this section is evidently to trace back to the Cainites, in the antediluvian period, the origin of early institutions. To the Hebrew the “city,” that is to say, a town community, represented the nucleus of civilized life, and hence the building of a city is ascribed to the father of the line from which emanated the various callings of civilization. It is needless to say that this tradition is devoid of scientific value for any enquiry into the progress of civilization in prehistoric times. Its interest lies in the record of the belief, that urban life could be dated back into the most primitive age. The site of the city is not indicated.

And unto Enoch, &c.] The genealogy of Cain is a framework of names, each of which may have been connected with traditions that either had been forgotten, or were not deemed suitable for preservation in this context. It is a mistake, into which some commentators have been betrayed, to endeavour to extract meanings from the proper names of the antediluvian patriarchs. It is very doubtful, whether the original names would have conveyed the same thoughts which their later Hebraized pronunciation has suggested to devout, but fanciful, imagination. The facts of history are not to be spelt out from the obscure etymology of primaeval proper names. These well-meaning endeavours have sometimes been based on the assumption that Hebrew was the original language.

The most that can be said is that these names preserve the recollection of legendary persons, and that they have received a Hebraized form which rendered them easier of pronunciation and facilitated a symbolical interpretation.

Irad] The name occurs in 1 Chron. 4:18; see note on Jared, 5:16.

Mehujael] Cf. Mahalalel, 5:12. If a Hebrew word, it may mean “blotted out by God.” Cf. 6:7, where “destroy” is in the marg. blot out.

The LXX Μαίηλ must have read Mahyiel = “God maketh me to live.”

Methushael] Cf. Methuselah, 5:21. Assyriologists say that the name means “Man of God,” and is the same as Mutu-sha-ili.

Lamech] The seventh of the Cainite line has three sons, as Noah, the tenth of the Sethite line, has three sons.

two wives] Lamech is the first recorded instance of polygamy. The custom, prevalent in patriarchal times and in the days of the kings (e.g. David, Solomon), was recognized in the Law of the Pentateuch and placed under restrictions, Deut. 21:13–30, Levit. 18:6–20.

On the ideal of monogamy, from which Israel fell far short, see note on 2:24. Lamech, the Cainite, is its first transgressor.

Adah] The name appears in 36:2 as that of one of Esau’s wives. If of Hebrew origin, possibly connected with the word meaning “adornment,” but also possibly derived from a root = “brightness,” found in Arabic and Assyrian, and, if so, may mean “the dawn.”

Zillah] Probably from the Heb. ṣêl = “shade” or “shadows,” implying “comfort” and “coolness” in the glare of a day in the desert.

Jabal] The meaning of this name is doubtful. Dillmann conjectures “a wanderer.” Jabal, like Abel (see note, on v. 2), is a founder of the shepherd’s and herdsman’s life.

father of] i.e. the founder, or originator, of nomad life. To the Hebrews, to live in tents was the alternative to life in the village or the town. It is strange to find that tent life is here placed later than the building of a town (v. 17).

such as dwell in tents, &c.] Literally, “such as dwell in tents and cattle”; i.e. those who wander about, occupied in the care of flocks and herds, and pitching their camps at different places. The eldest brother represents the Bedouin chieftain, the second brother represents the arts of primitive pastoral life, the third brother represents the most necessary industry.

Jubal] The originator of musical instruments. Music is thus regarded as the most ancient art. For the name, compare the word “Jubilee”; yôbêl is “the ram’s horn.”

harp and pipe] i.e. the simplest of stringed and wind instruments used by shepherds. LXX ψαλτήριον καὶ κιθάραν: Lat. cithara et organo.

Tubal-cain] The double name is strange, and presumably means “Tubal of the family of Cain.” Tubal is traditionally supposed to have given his name to the people mentioned in 10:2 (see note). “Tubal” in Ezek. 27:13, 32:26, 38:2, 39:1 is associated with Javan and Meshech as a community whose traffic included “vessels of brass.” The Assyrian inscriptions record a people called “Tabal,” apparently living to the S.E. of the Black Sea.

the forger] Heb. “the sharpener.” The expression is intended to denote the first smelter of metals. LXX τὸν Θόβελ, καὶ ἦν σφυροκόπος χαλκεὺς χαλκοῦ καὶ σιδήρου. Lat. Tubalcain qui fuit malleator et faber in cuncta opera aeris et ferri.

The R.V. marg. = A.V. “an instructor of every artificer,” is a conjectural rendering of an obscure passage, and does not follow the original.

brass] Better than copper. The metal, like the Gr. χαλκός, was probably our “bronze,” for which “brass” was the equivalent in all early English literature. “Brass” is an alloy of copper and zinc; “bronze” of copper and tin. Copper-mining (not “brass”) is referred to in Deut. 8:9; Job 28:2. Our English word “bronze” is derived from “Brundusium.”

It should be noticed here (1) that Hebrew tradition realizes how important an epoch in the progress of civilization is marked by the discovery of the use of metals; (2) that in this verse the mention of bronze precedes that of iron; (3) that no knowledge is shewn of a stone age, which archaeology has demonstrated to have preceded.

Naamah] meaning “pleasant.” The mention of her name, concerning whom nothing else is recorded, implies the existence of legends or traditions which have disappeared. Perhaps she symbolized luxury, as Jubal symbolized art and Tubal-Cain industry. The juxtaposition of Naamah and Tubal-Cain reminds us of Venus and Vulcan, more especially as Naamah is said to have been the Phoenician title of the Semitic goddess Istar. It is the name borne by the mother of Rehoboam, an Ammonitess (1 Kings 14:31).

23, 24. The Song of the Sword. These verses are written in a poetical style, with the parallelism of clauses characteristic of Hebrew poetry. It is the first instance of Hebrew poetical composition in the Bible. It contains (1) the address of Lamech to his wives; (2) the announcement of a recent exploit; (3) the boast of confidence and security against injury or insult. It is generally supposed that Lamech’s Song is intended to represent his exultation after the invention of metal weapons by his son Tubal-Cain. The new possession inspired primitive man with confidence and eagerness for savage retaliation.

The substance of line (or stichos) 1 is repeated in line (or stichos) 2: “Adah and Zillah” correspond to “Ye wives of Lamech,” and “Hear my voice” to “Hearken unto my speech.”

In line (or stichos) 3, the word “I have slain” gives the note to the whole distich; but “a man for wounding me” is repeated in greater detail in line (or stichos) 4, “a young man for bruising me.” Line (or stichos) 5 mentions the traditional vengeance promised for Cain; line (or stichos) 6 boasts of a vengeance tenfold greater than this for Lamech.

a man for wounding me] Lamech boasts that he has slain a man who had wounded him and a young man who had bruised him. Whether “a man” and “a young man” are the same person, or whether they mean a man and his son, cannot be decided. Lamech has exacted the vengeance of death for the insult of a blow.

It is, however, possible that the poem only describes an imaginary instance in which Lamech had retaliated in self-defence, and boasts that with the assistance of metal weapons Lamech’s capacity for revenge is increased elevenfold.

seventy and sevenfold] Cf. v. 15. Lamech boasts that seventy and seven deaths should be the penalty of revenge if he were slain.

The first note of warfare is sounded in this fierce exultation in a deed which has exceeded the limits of self-defence and passed into the region of the blood-feud. The possession of new weapons and the lust of revenge are here recorded as the typical elements of the war spirit. “Although, technically, the law of Vengeance was satisfied by a ‘life for a life,’ yet in practice the avenging of blood was often carried to the utmost length of ruthless ferocity. For one life many were taken, the murderer and his kinsfolk together.” (Gordon, Early Traditions of Genesis, p. 204.)

25, 26. The Line of Seth

These two verses begin the line of Seth which is parallel to that of Cain. The more complete genealogy, found in ch. 5, comes from a different source (P). But it is not unlikely that they are derived from the same materials as the previous section.

called his name] Here, as in v. 1 (see note), the mother gives the name.

God] Elohim (not Jehovah, as in v. 1), probably because of v. 26.

hath appointed] Heb. shath. As was pointed out in the note on v. 1, the resemblance to a Hebrew word in the sound of a proper name does not supply its strict etymology. The name “Seth” (shêth) = “setting” or “slip,” resembles in sound the Hebrew verb for “appointed” or “set” (shâth), and it is to this assonance that Eve’s words refer.

It is an instance of a play on a word, viz. paronomasia, of which there are many cases in the O.T. But assonance is a delusive element in etymology.

another seed] We are not to infer that no other children were born to Eve, but that Seth was “appointed” to take the place of Abel, and his seed to form a righteous counterpart to the unholy seed of Cain. In Ecclus. 49:16 Seth is united with Shem as “glorified among men.”

Enosh] This word, used in Hebrew poetry, means “man,” and is thus to be compared with Adam.

then began men] In the Hebrew it is impersonal, “then was a beginning made.” The origin of Jehovah worship is here connected with the line of Seth, and is probably intended to be contrasted with the origin of secular callings in the line of Cain.

to call upon] “Properly, as always, to call with, i.e. to use the name in invocations, in the manner of ancient cults, especially at times of sacrifice; cf. 12:8, 13:4, 21:33, 26:25.” (Driver.)

the name of the Lord] i.e. the name of Jehovah. This statement by J, who uses this title by preference, is in conflict with the statement that the name was first revealed to Moses (E), (P), Ex. 3:14, 6:2. But in view not only of this text, but also of recent cuneiform decipherments, shewing the probability that a form of the name was known in Babylonia before the time of Moses, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the name belongs, as the tradition of J evidently taught, to prehistoric antiquity.

Ch. 5. The Descendants of Seth. (P.)

On the Cainites and Sethites, see note at the close of the chapter. In 4:25, 26 a commencement was made of the Sethite genealogy taken from J. In ch. 5 a fresh start is made, and the line of Seth is traced from Adam to Noah. The genealogy is taken from a different source, which is clearly P. (a) The contents of vv. 1–3 refer back to 1:26–28; (b) the “generations” (tôl’dôth) of v. 1 is the expression employed by P as the superscription of successive sections in his narrative (see note on 2:4); (c) the name Seth in v. 3 is given by Adam; according to J (4:25) it was given by Eve; (d) the formal and systematic description of the patriarchs, consisting of (1) their names, (2) their age at the birth of their firstborn, (3) the length of their life, corresponds with the characteristics of P’s literary style and his fondness for statistics. With the exception of v. 29, the whole of the chapter may be regarded as the writing of P and the continuation of 1:1 to 2:4a.

This is the book, &c.] The word rendered “book” (Heb. sêpher) is used of any written document. Our word “book” gives rather too much the meaning of a piece of literature. The word is often used in a much more general sense, e.g. Isa. 50:1, “where is the bill (Heb. sêpher) of your mother’s divorcement?” Jer. 32:10, “and I subscribed the deed (Heb. sêpher), and sealed it”; 2 Sam. 11:14, “David wrote a letter (Heb. sêpher) to Joab.” Here it is equivalent to “a written list.”

the generations] See note on 2:4, “The generations of Adam,” i.e. the genealogy from Adam to Noah. LXX γενέσεως, Vulg. “generationis,” regarded the Hebrew word as singular.

Adam] The proper name, Adam, not ha-adam = “the man” or “mankind.”

God created man] The words “God” (Elohim), “created” (bara), “in the likeness,” reproduce the distinctive language of 1:26–28.

male and female, &c.] This clause is repeated from 1:27.

blessed them] From 1:27. The words of the command, “be fruitful and multiply,” &c., which accompanied the blessing, are not repeated; they are implied in the genealogy that follows.

called their name Adam] Better than marg. “called their name Man.” That God gave the name “man” (Heb. adam) is not recorded in ch. 1. The proper name is probably here intended; but, if so, we should read “his name,” as the LXX, τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ.

in his own likeness, after his image] Cf. 1:26. Man was made in God’s image, after His likeness; he begets a son, in his own likeness, after his image. Many Heb. MSS., however, only read “in his image.” On the words “image” and “likeness,” see note on 1:26. The phrase here is evidently intended to shew that the elements of resemblance to the Divine image, which at the first were implanted in man’s nature, were communicated from father to son.

That the priestly document contained any tradition respecting the Fall, or the murder of Abel, seems improbable.

Seth] See note on 4:25. The father here gives the name; the mother’s name is not mentioned in this genealogy.

Enosh] See note on 4:26.

Kenan] The first syllable of this name is the same in Hebrew as the name “Cain,” and it is presumably akin in meaning as well as in form (see note on 4:1).

Mahalalel] As a Hebrew name this would mean “the praise of God”; but see note on the etymology of proper names in prehistoric times, 4:17. For Mahalalel the versions give a different form. LXX Μαλελεήλ; Vulg. “Malaleel.”

Jared] Heb. Yared = “a going down.” Cf. Jordan (Heb. Yardên) = “the going down, or descending, river” (?). The Book of jubilees, written in the latter part of the second century b.c., made use of this Hebrew etymology of the name, and connected it with the descending of angels upon the earth, when “the sons of God saw the daughters of men,” &c., 6:2. To suppose that it denotes “descent,” in the sense of “deterioration,” is very far fetched.

Enoch] Heb. Ḥanôkh; cf. 4:17. Enoch and Mahalalel are here transposed.

Methuselah] Possibly = “the man of Shelah”; and, if so, Shelah may indicate the name of a deity; cf. Methushael (4:18) = “the man of God.”

walked with God] The phrase here, as in v. 24, used of Enoch, has passed into common use to express intimacy of communion with God. It denotes more than either standing in His presence, or walking before Him (6:9, 17:1), or following after Him. It combines the ideas of fellowship and progress. It is the picture of one who has God with him in all the various scenes of life.

The audacity of the metaphor caused the LXX to render it by a paraphrase; εὐηρέστησε δὲ Ἐνὼχ τῷ θεῷ = “and Enoch was well pleasing unto God,” which is quoted in Heb. 11:5. For other paraphrases, see Targ. Onkelos, “walked in the fear of God”; Targ. Palestine, “served in the truth before the Lord.”

and all the days, &c.] Concerning Enoch the following points deserve attention: (1) He is the seventh in the genealogy, cf. Jude 14; (2) by comparison with the lives of his fathers and descendants, the length of his life is immensely curtailed; (3) the number of his years agrees with the number of days in the solar year; (4) owing to the closeness of his walk with God he was believed to have been “translated” into Heaven. With this summary must be compared the account of the seventh king in the antediluvian Babylonian Dynasty, Enmeduranki by name, who received revelations from the Sun-god Samas, and was the builder of the town of Sippar, which was dedicated to the Sun-god.

and he was not] For this expression used to denote an unaccountable disappearance, cf. Gen. 42:13, 36; 1 Kings 20:40. In order to make it quite clear that the words did not imply death, LXX renders οὐχ εὑρίσκετο; Vulg. “non apparuit.”

The shortness of his life as compared with the other patriarchs might have been regarded as a proof of Divine displeasure, if the next sentence had not been added to explain the circumstance.

for God took him] “Took,” or “received,” him, i.e. into His own abode, without death: cf. “he shall receive me” (Ps. 49:15). Sam. “the Angel took him”; LXX μετέθηκε = “translated”; Lat. tulit; Targ. Onkelos, “for the Lord had made him to die.” Our word “translated” has passed into general use from this passage and from the allusion to it in Heb. 11:5, “By faith Enoch was translated (Lat. translatus est) that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God translated him.” For the only other instance in the O.T. of a Saint’s “translation,” see the story of Elijah (2 Kings 2). In the early Babylonian traditions, Xisuthros, the hero of the Babylonian Deluge story, is “translated” after the Deluge, that he may dwell among the gods.

Late Jewish tradition was very busy with the story of Enoch. Enoch was supposed to have received Divine revelation concerning “all mysteries,” and to have recorded them in writing in apocalyptic books. This current belief concerning Enoch, as the repository and the recorder of the mysteries of the universe, gave rise to the writing of the extant apocalyptic work, “The Book of Enoch,” composed in the second century b.c.

The devout Israelite was able to believe that they who walked with God would somehow be taken by God; cf. Ps. 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward take me to glory.” In an age which had no conception of a general resurrection there was faith in God’s power and a trust in fellowship with Him.

Methuselah] According to the Hebrew text and the Samaritan version, Methuselah lived the longest of all the patriarchs, and, according to their figures, his death at the age of 969 years occurred in the year of the Flood.

saying, This same shall comfort us, &c.] It is generally supposed that this verse, containing a poetical couplet which is intended to explain the name of Noah, has been inserted from the same source of tradition (J) as 4:25, 26. Certainly, (a) the saying interrupts the bare list of names and years; (b) it contains a reference to the curse pronounced upon the soil, 3:17; (c) it recurs to the use of the sacred name “Jehovah” (“Jahveh”), whereas “God” (“Elohim”) has been used in vv. 1, 22 and 24.

comfort] Heb. naḥem, “to comfort,” “relieve.” The name “Noah,” however, is not derived from naḥem, but there is a play on the general similarity of sound. The LXX renders “gives us rest.”

for our work] The word “for” is in the Heb. “from,” and the meaning is that Noah will comfort his fellow-creatures and give them relief and refreshment “from” their toil.

because of the ground] Better, as R.V. marg., “which cometh from the ground.” This clause is in prose, following two metrical clauses.

In what way did the tradition connect the name of Noah with “comfort” as regards work upon the ground? According to the Hebrew figures in this chapter, Lamech, Noah’s father, must have died either before or in the Flood. It is conceivable that the saying recorded in this verse is taken from a group of Israelite traditions which contained no account of the Flood, and only associated the name of Noah with the work of an husbandman and with the first planting of a vineyard (9:20).

and all the days of Lamech] Lamech’s life of 770 years was shorter than Methuselah’s by 192 years. His death occurred five years before the Flood. In the Samaritan text the date of his death coincided with the year of the Flood.

And Noah was, &c.] Noah is thus represented as much older, when he begets his children, than were the other patriarchs, when children were born to them. A hundred years is the interval of time between the birth of Noah’s sons and the Deluge (7:6).

Compare the mention of three sons born to Lamech, the last name in the Cainite genealogy (4:20–24).

Note on the Antediluvian Patriarchs

According to chap. 5 (P), the interval of time between the work of Creation (1:1–2:4a) and the visitation of the Flood (6:9 ff.) is occupied by a list of ten Patriarchs.

The chronological scheme of P, according to the Hebrew text, makes this period to consist of 1656 years (in the Samaritan text, it is 1307 years; in the LXX, 2242). The description given of the ten Patriarchs is precise and formal. It is limited in each case to the bare formulae narrating facts respecting (i) the age of the Patriarch at the birth of his firstborn, (ii) the number of his remaining years, and the fact that he was the father of other children, (iii) his age at the time of his death.

The account which is thus given furnishes an explanation of the great population of the earth which is overthrown in the Flood. The chapter, however, contains no mention of the growing wickedness of the race. And it does not appear that P takes any account of the Narrative of the Fall (chap. 3 J). Budde, indeed (Urgesch. 93–103), contends that the names of the Patriarchs are intended to symbolize the condition of their age, the names Jared (= descent), Methuselah (= the man of the weapon, or the man of violence) denoting its deterioration.

The ten names represented the history of the human race before the Flood. The distribution of these ten names over the period of 1656 years implies a minute and elaborate calculation by the chronologists and chroniclers, whose work has been employed in P.

I. Ten Babylonian Kings

It is impossible to resist the conclusion that there is some sort of connexion between the ten Antediluvian Patriarchs of Gen. 5 and the ten kings before the Flood in the Babylonian Legends. The names of the ten kings are as follows:

(A. According to Berossus.)

(B. According to cuneiform inscriptions.)

    1.    Alôrus.

    1.    Arûru.

    2.    Alaparos.

    2.    Adapa.

    3.    Amêlôn.

    3.    Amêlu (= Man, ? = Enosh).

    4.    Ammenôn.

    4.    Ummanu (= Master-crafts-man, ? = Kenan).

    5.    Megalâros.

    6.    Daônos.

    7.    Euedôrachos.

    8.    Amempsinos.

    7.    Enmeduranki (?=Enoch).

    8.    Amel-Sin (= Man of the god Sin, ? = Methuselah).

    9.    Ôtiartes.

    9.    Ubara-Jutu.

    10.    Xisûthros.

    10.    Ḥasisatra (?=Noah).

In this list there may possibly be discerned some points of correspondence with the Hebrew. (a) In No. 3 Amelu (= Man) may be translated in Enosh=Man. (b) In (4) Ummanu (= Workman), in Kenan; and in (8) Amel-Sin (Man of Sin), in Methuselah (= Man of Shelah). (c) No. 7, Enmeduranki (king of Sippar, the city of the Sun-god, Shamash), who was the friend of the gods Ramman and Shamash, looks as if he must stand in some close relation to Enoch, whose life was 365 years and who walked with God. (d) The 10th in the list, Xisuthros or Ḥasisatra, the Ut-napishtim of the Epic, is the hero of the Babylonian Flood, and corresponds to Noah in the Hebrew list.

In the Babylonian list, the ten kings are assigned a period of 432,000 years.

II. Sethite and Cainite Genealogies

It is important to compare the two lists of the Sethite (P) and Cainite (J) Genealogies.

Sethite (chap. 5).

Cainite (chap. 4:17–24).

    1.    Adam

    1.    Adam

    2.    Seth


    3.    Enosh


    4.    Kenan

    2.    Cain

    5.    Mahalalel

    3.    Mehujael

    6.    Jared

    4.    Irad

    7.    Enoch

    5.    Enoch

    8.    Methuselah

    6.    Methushael

    9.    Lamech

    7.    Lamech

    10.    Noah



Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain.

Shem, Ham, Japheth.


(a) The general resemblance in the names is very striking. (b) One list contains the perfect number ten, the other the perfect number seven. (c) Each list concludes in a family of three sons. We have to deal either with two variants of the same tradition; or with two distinct traditions, in which the same stock of primitive legendary names is found very closely repeated.

III. Different Chronologies

The Chronology of the Antediluvian Patriarchs varies in the three principal sources for the text, (1) the Massoretic (Hebrew), (2) the Samaritan, (3) the Septuagint. They are presented in the following Table.


Massoretic Text



Year (Anno Mundi) of Death











Mass. Text
















    1.    Adam













    2.    Seth













    3.    Enosh













    4.    Kenan













    5.    Mahalalel













    6.    Jered













    7.    Enoch













    8.    Methuselah













    9.    Lamech













    10.    Noah













Till the Flood













Year of the Flood













These different figures are not due to errors in the text. They seem to arise from the adoption of differing systems for the calculation of the chronology.

It has commonly been supposed that the Hebrew figures (1656) are part of a scheme which calculated 2666 years to have been the interval between the Creation and the Exodus, and that 2666 years represented two-thirds of a cycle of 4000 years.

The 2666 years are computed as follows:


Creation to Flood


Flood to birth of Abraham


To birth of Isaac (21:5)


To birth of Jacob (25:26)


To Jacob’s descent into Egypt (47:9–28)


Sojourn in Egypt (Ex. 12:40)



The Samaritan figure of 1307 is part of a system which calculated 3007 years to intervene between the Creation and the entrance into Canaan. The calculation was as follows:

Creation to Flood




Flood to birth of Abraham




Birth of Abraham to descent into Egypt




Sojourn in Egypt




Wandering in Wilderness








Skinner (in loc.) points out, that, if the calculation be made in round numbers=3000, the entire period may then be divided into three decreasing periods of 1300, 940, 760 years, of which the second exceeds the third by 180 years, and the first exceeds the second by twice 180 years (2×180) = 360 years.

The LXX figure of 2240 is the equivalent of the Samaritan calculation from the Creation to the Flood (1300 years) + the Samaritan calculation from the Flood to the birth of Abraham (940 years). But whether this be the result of accident or design, it is impossible to say.

IV. Longevity of Patriarchs

The Hebrew tradition evidently assumed that human vitality, in the era immediately following upon the Creation, was at its highest point, and that, in consequence, immense longevity was to be expected in the lives of the Antediluvian Patriarchs.

The immense duration of life assigned to these ten Patriarchs has always been the occasion of difficulty. Attempts have been made to explain away the figures. (a) It has been suggested that the names of the Patriarchs represent dynasties. But the mention of the first-born and of other children obviously refers to personal history. Nor does the transference of these enormous figures to the duration of dynasties greatly diminish the improbability of their literal historicity. (b) It has been suggested that the Hebrew word for “year” (shânah) is used in this chapter to denote a shorter period of time. But this arbitrary solution is devoid of any evidence in its favour. Familiar Hebrew words, like “years” in this chapter, or like “day” in chapter 1, must not be supposed, because of our difficulties in interpretation, to require new meanings.

There is no reason not to interpret the statements respecting the longevity of the ten Antediluvian Patriarchs quite literally. The account of them belongs to the domain of primitive tradition. It would be strange, if the primitive unverifiable tradition were not accompanied by the exaggerations which popular legend weaves around prehistoric names.

It is instructive to compare the ages of the Antediluvian and Postdiluvian Patriarchs with those of the famous Israelites of more historic times.

Adam, the first of the Antediluvians, lived

930 years

Seth, the second of the Antediluvians, lived

912 years

Noah, the tenth of the Antediluvians, lived

950 years

Shem, the first of the Post-diluvians, lived

600 years

Arpachshad, the second of the Post-diluvians, lived

408 years

Terah, the tenth of the Post-diluvians, lived

205 years



175 years



180 years



147 years



110 years



120 years



110 years

David reigned

40 years


Solomon reigned

40 years


Rehoboam lived

58 years

(2 Chr. 12:13)

Hezekiah lived

54 years

(2 Chr. 29:1)

Manasseh lived

67 years

(2 Chr. 33:1)

It is clear that this descending scale, in the duration of life, corresponds to the stages of transition from legend to history.

There is no evidence to shew that the earlier phases of civilization were more favourable to longevity than the later.

Ch. 6:1–9:29. The Deluge

The sons of God and the daughters of men] This short strange passage serves as a kind of Preface to the Narrative of the Deluge. There is nothing to be found quite like it elsewhere in the O.T. It obviously is not a continuation of the previous chapter; and, except for a possible, though most disputable, allusion in the mention of the 120 years (v. 3), its contents do not presuppose the catastrophe of the Flood. In all probability, we should be right in regarding these four verses as a fragment from some quite independent source of early Hebrew tradition, most certainly distinct from the regular materials represented in J and P.

The mention of the marriages between “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men” is clearly a survival of early Hebrew mythology. It accounted for the existence of an Israelite tradition respecting a primitive race of giants. There are traces, in the literature of other countries, of a similar belief in fabulous giants, or semi-divine heroes, who lived in a far-remote age of antiquity.

The tradition preserved in this brief fragment is condensed, and the language is not free from obscurity. There are, however, allusions in other parts of the O.T. (see note on v. 4) to the race of giants which was believed not to have been extinct at the time of the occupation of Palestine by the Israelite tribes. Such a belief was incompatible with the tradition that all the primaeval dwellers in the world, except Noah and his family, perished in the waters of the Flood (7:21–23). If, therefore, the impious unions of angels with the daughters of men were considered to account for the existence of a giant human race surviving in later times, the tradition which recorded them must have been quite distinct from, and independent of, the tradition of a universal Flood.

As an isolated survival of Hebrew mythology, it furnishes an instructive reminder, that the popular ideas of Israel concerning primaeval times may be presumed, at least originally, to have resembled those of other nations. They were pervaded by fanciful and legendary elements. We must realize that the spiritual teaching of the religion of Jehovah was responsible for an extensive purgation of the traditions which described the beginnings of the world and of the Israelite people. Polytheistic and unedifying materials were most successfully excluded in the compilation of the Hebrew sacred books. The result is simple, dignified, and elevating. We have in these four verses a glimpse of the material which for the most part was rigorously discarded.

men] Heb. ha-adam, i.e. “the man.” It is not the proper name “Adam”; nor is it “the man” as an individual as in 3:24, 4:1: but “the man” collectively, in the sense of “the human race,” LXX οἱ ἄνθρωποι. This use of the word is different from anything in the Paradise Narrative: see 5:1.

began to multiply] No account is taken of (a) the description of the growth of the population, and of (b) the genealogies of Cainites and Sethites, which have occupied chaps. 4:17–25, and 5.

that the sons of God, &c.] This is one of the most disputed passages in the book. But the difficulty, in a great measure, disappears, if it is frankly recognized, that the verse must be allowed to have its literal meaning. According to the legend which it preserves, intermarriages took place between Heavenly Beings and mortal women.

Commentators have often shrunk from the admission that this piece of mythology could have a place in the Hebrew Scriptures. Accordingly, very fanciful explanations have sometimes found favour; e.g. (a) “the sons of God” are the men of the upper classes, “the daughters of men” are “the women of the lower classes”; (b) “the sons of God” are “the sons of the god-fearing,” “the daughters of men” are “the daughters of the impious”; (c) “the sons of God” are “the descendants of Seth,” “the daughters of men” are “the women of the Cainite race.”

Such interpretations may be dismissed as arbitrary and non-natural: and they furnish no explanation of the inference in v. 4, that a race of giants or heroes was the progeny of these marriages.

the sons of God] Heb. B’nê Elohim, “sons of Elohim,” i.e. beings partaking of the Divine nature. It has been pointed out above (see note on 1:26), that the Israelites believed the Almighty to be surrounded by a court of beings who were subordinate to Him in authority, office, and rank: their dwelling-place was in Heaven; their duty was to perform the tasks appointed them by the Almighty. They were “angels” or “messengers,” Heb. mal’âkhîm, Gr. ἄγγελοι. The sons of God are mentioned in Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7, Ps. 29:1, 89:1, Dan. 3:25, 28.

The expression must be judged in accordance with Hebrew, not English, idiom. “The sons of the prophets” (1 Kings 20:35: cf. Amos 7:14) are persons who belong to the guild of the prophets, members, as we should say, of the prophet’s calling. No family relationship is implied. Similarly “the sons of God” are not “sons of gods,” in the sense of being their children, but “sons of Elohim” in the sense of belonging to the class of super-natural, or heavenly, beings.

There is no reference, on the one hand, to Oriental speculations respecting emanations from the Deity; nor to actual sonship, or generation. The description is quite general. Nowhere do we find in the O.T. mention of the “sons of Jehovah” instead of the “sons of Elohim.”

of all that they chose] i.e. whomsoever they chose. The sons of God are represented as being irresistible. The sons of men could offer no effective opposition. The marriages, contracted in this way, are evidently implied to be wrong, and the result of mere unbridled passion. The men were powerless to defend their women folk.

In the later days of Judaism, this passage became the source of the strange legends respecting “fallen angels,” of which we find traces in the N.T.: 2 Pet. 2:4, “for if God spared not angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Hell”; Jude 6, “angels which kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation”; and in the Book of Enoch.

There is no trace, however, in the Book of Genesis of any tradition respecting either the fall, or the rebellion, of members of the angel-host. Unquestionably English ideas are profoundly affected by the influence of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and by the vague impression that a great and noble religious poem must have been founded upon literal facts.

And the lord said] It is not evident in this verse, why the Lord should pass a sentence of condemnation upon man. In the two preceding verses, it is not man, but “the sons of God,” whose depravity has been described. Perhaps, however, the object of the words is, in view of the mixed marriages, to impose a more restricted limit upon the duration of human life. Man is warned, as in 4:22, that on earth he has no immortality. The warning is administered to the progeny of the sons of God and the daughters of men no less than to the children of men generally.

Following this line of interpretation, we obtain some clue to the meaning of a most obscure verse. Its obscurities, indeed, are such that it may well be the case, that the original text has suffered corruption in the early stages of its transmission.

1. The R.V. text may be paraphrased: “My spirit shall not for ever be contending with man; seeing that he also is carnally minded. His days are numbered: but I will not at once consume him. There shall yet be an interval of 120 years, before I bring upon mankind the catastrophe of the Deluge.” The objections to this are numerous: (a) the rendering “strive” is exceedingly doubtful; (b) the idea of the spirit of Jehovah striving with men is unsuitable; (c) the rendering, “for that he also, &c.” represents a Hebrew idiom found nowhere else in the Pentateuch, while the word “also” has no logical connexion; (d) the mention of “his days” being 120 years despite the Flood is, to say the least, strange—Noah is expressly stated in P to be 500 years old at the birth of his sons (v. 22), and 600 years old when he entered the ark (7:6); (e) “flesh” is used in its metaphorical, not in its literal, sense.

2. R.V. marg. rule in. Better, according to many ancient versions, abide in … in their going astray they are flesh. The following paraphrase may be given: “the Spirit which I have implanted in man is not to abide in him for ever. (Still he shall not be judged too severely.) In their continual going astray men shew that they are frail flesh. Mortal life, therefore, shall be limited to 120 years (no admixture of the heavenly strain shall avail for the greater prolongation of life).”

It is objected that the lives of the patriarchs in P exceed this limit. But the passage is evidently an independent fragment from J. And it is a more serious objection that the words of the verse, taken literally, make no clear allusion to the illicit marriages, and are applicable to mankind generally.

The Nephilim] i.e. giants. It is natural to refer to Num. 13:33, “And there we saw the Nephilim (Or, giants), the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” The tradition that the Nephilim existed at the time of the Exodus was therefore quite strongly held. The precise meaning of the name has been lost. The passage in Numbers shews clearly that it denoted men of gigantic stature. The etymology very probably goes back to primitive times; and its origin is lost with the dialects that disappeared when the Israelites finally occupied Palestine. It was natural to connect the word with the Hebrew naphal, “to fall”; hence arose the renderings of Aquila, οἱ ἐπιπίπτοντες, “the assailants,” and of Symmachus, οἱ βιαῖοι, “the violent,” while among Patristic commentators the word was connected with “the fallen angels.” But these are merely guesses; and we must be content to leave the etymology of “the Nephilim,” like that of “the Rephaim” and “the Anakim,” unexplained.

and also after that] These words are introduced very awkwardly; and were very probably added as a gloss, in order to shew that the Nephilim existed not only in primitive ages, but also at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, as would be implied by Num. 13:33. The continuance of the Nephilim in later times seems to contradict the account of the destruction of all the dwellers on the earth by the Flood. This contradiction is to be explained on the supposition, mentioned above, that the present passage is a fragment of a tradition in which the Flood was not recorded.

the mighty men, &c.] That is to say, “the well-known giants of old-world time,” familiar personages in Israelite folk-lore. To this class belong such names as “Nimrod,” 10:8, and “Og,” Deut. 3:11.

the men of renown] Literally, “the men of name,” as in Num. 16:2, “men of renown,” Lat. viri famosi, viz. famous for deeds of prowess and audacity.

6:5–9:17. The Flood. (J and P.)

Here follows the Hebrew narrative of the Flood. The Flood is the one great event in the history of the world, which in the Hebrew narrative emerges out of the obscurity between the creation of man and the period of the patriarchs. It marks the close of the first era of the human race. According to the story in Genesis, it was a judgement for the depravity of mankind.

It marks also the beginning of a new era in the history of mankind. This has its origin in the mercy of God, who, in recognition of the righteousness of Noah, preserves him and his family in the general overthrow. This is a symbol of salvation. The new age opens with the renewal of promises to man, and with a covenant entailing new obligations on man’s part, in return for the assurance of Divine protection.

On the relation of the Genesis narrative to the Babylonian and other accounts of the Flood, see Special Note.

The present narrative is woven together out of the two distinct Israelite traditions, J and P: see Introduction. This compositeness of structure in the Flood narrative is quite unmistakable. It accounts for the (a) repetitions, (b) discrepancies, (c) intermittent use of special words and phrases, inexplicable on the assumption of a continuous homogeneous narrative. Under the head of (a) “repetitions,” notice the duplicated account of the growing corruption of mankind in 6:5–8 (J), and in 6:9–12 (P); of the entrance of Noah and his family into the ark 7:7 (J) and 7:13 (P); of the rising of the waters of the Flood 7:17 (J) and 7:18, 19 (P); of the end of all living creatures 7:21 (P) and 7:22, 23 (J); and of God’s promise to Noah in 8:15–19 (P) and 8:20–22 (J).

Under the head of (b) “discrepancies,” notice that, in P, Noah takes one pair of every kind of animal into the ark (6:19, 20, and 7:15, 16), while, in J, Noah is commanded to take seven pairs of every clean animal and one pair of every unclean animal into the ark (7:2, 3); again, in P, the Flood is brought about through the outburst of the waters from the great deep both from beneath the earth and from above the firmament (7:11, 8:2); while, in J, it is produced by the rain (7:12, 8:2). According to P, the Flood was in progress for 150 days (7:24, 8:3), while according to J the rain lasted for 40 days (7:12); in J the waters were subsiding for 14 or 21 days (8:10, 12), and in P the earth was dry after a year and 10 days (8:14).

Under the head of (c), the following are examples of distinctive phraseology:



“God” (Elohim), 6:9, 11, 12, 13, 22, 7:16a, 8:1, 15.

“the Lord” (Jehovah), 7:1, 5, 16b, 8:20, 21.

“male and female” (zâkâr un’ḳêbâh), 6:19, 7:16.

“the male and his female” (ish v’ishto), 7:2.

“destroy” (shâḥath), 6:13, 17.

“destroy” (mâḥâh), 6:7, 7:4, 23.

“all flesh,” 6:12, 13, 17, 7:21.

“every living thing,” 7:4, 23.

“breath (ruaḥ) of life,” 7:15.

“breath of (nishmath) the spirit of (ruaḥ) life,” 7:22.

“die” (gâv’â), 7:21.

“die” (mûth), 7:22.

“waters prevailed” (gâbâr), 7:18, 19, 24.

“waters increased” (râbâh), 7:17b.

“waters abated” (ḥâsêr), 8:3b, 5.

“waters abated” (qâlal), 8:8.

Also characteristic of P is the minute description of the ark and its dimensions (6:14–16), the varieties of animals (6:20), the Flood’s depth (7:20), and the members of Noah’s family (7:13, 8:15, 18); while, in J, Divine action is described in anthropomorphic terms (e.g. 6:6, 7:16, 8:21), and vivid details of narrative are introduced (8:6–12).

Roughly speaking the portions derived from P consist of 6:9–22, 7:6, 11, 13–16a, 18–21, 24, 8:1, 2a, 3b–5, 13a, 14–19, 9:1–17: the remainder of the narrative is derived from the J tradition, with here and there a few alterations for the purpose of harmonizing the two sources of narrative. The process of harmonizing was not difficult: for both narratives agreed in their main outlines, and differed only in the treatment of details.

5–8. Introduction to the story of the Flood from J: Jehovah sees the sinfulness of man and resolves to annihilate the race.

of man] Literally, “the man,” ha-adam, used generically, as in v. 1.

“The unity of the race is a consistent doctrine of the O.T. It was האדם, man, when created as a single individual. It spread over the earth, and was still האדם, man. It was כלבשר, ‘alt flesh,’ that had corrupted its way before the Flood. Mankind is, as a whole, corrupt; and, corresponding to this, each individual is unclean.… Probably the O.T. does not go the length of offering any rationale of the fact that each individual is sinful, beyond connecting him with a sinful whole.” (Davidson, Theology of the O.T. pp. 218, 219.)

every imagination of the thoughts of his heart] An elaborate description. The word rendered “imagination” means “form,” “formation,” or “shape,” and, as applied to the region of thought, denotes “an idea,” or “the concept of thought,” cogitatio, cf. 8:21.

continually] Literally, “all the day.” Man’s sinfulness is thus described as universal and unintermittent. The beginnings of “sin” are seen in the picture of the Fall, chap. 3, its propagation in the murderous act of Cain, chap. 4; we have reached in this passage its complete and unrestrained expansion.

The LXX translating the word for “imagination” as a verb, gives καὶ πᾶς τις διανοεῖται ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἐπιμελῶς ἐπὶ τὰ πονηρὰ πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας, Lat. quod … cuncta cogitatio cordis intenta esset ad malum omni tempore.

And it repented the Lord … grieved him at his heart] This is a strong instance of what is called anthropomorphism, an expression descriptive of human emotion or action ascribed to Jehovah (e.g. 3:8, 7:16, 8:21). Such expressions have often given rise to superficial criticisms, depreciatory of Holy Scripture, on the part both of those who are ignorant of Oriental literature, and of those who assume that the Books of Holy Scripture must be free from the literary characteristics of the writers’ age and nationality. In this verse Jehovah is represented as intensely grieved at the frustration of His purposes for the human race. The description is given in the childlike simplicity of the language of an early age: compare Gen. 11:5, 6, 18:21.

In other passages, e.g. Num. 23:19, 1 Sam. 15:29, it is asserted that Jehovah is not, like man, capable of repentance. There are two representations in Holy Scripture of the Divine Nature: one, which, as here, makes the Divine Purpose fluctuate, in reflexion, as it were, of man’s changing experiences; the other, which depicts the Divine Purpose as uniform, changeless, and unvarying, cf. James 1:17.

It was the dread of any expression being liable to the suspicion of irreverence towards the Almighty, which led to the strange renderings of this verse by the later Jews. Thus, LXX renders “repented” by ἐνεθυμήθη = “considered,” and “grieved” by διενοήθη = “purposed,” while the Targum of Onkelos renders the second clause “and spake by his word to break their strength according to his will,” and Pseudo-Jonathan, “and disputed with his word concerning them.” The object of such paraphrases is to avoid anthropomorphism. The LXX also avoids the expression of repentance as applied to God in Ex. 32:12.

The Latin rendering is quite free from any such shrinking, and is noteworthy: poenituit eum et tactus dolore cordis intrinsecus.

destroy] R.V. marg. Heb. blot out. LXX ἀπαλείψω, Lat. delebo. A characteristic word in J, cf. 7:4, 23; and different from the word for “destroy” in v. 13. (LXX καταφθείρω, Lat. disperdam.)

both man, and beast, &c.] No reference is here made to any preservation of life.

But Noah] The sudden introduction of Noah’s name implies that there had been some previous account, in J, describing the contrast of Noah’s virtue with the sinfulness of his contemporaries. In the composite narrative of Genesis many features have necessarily disappeared in the process of combining the different traditions. Possibly, the passage at the beginning of this chapter (vv. 1 to 4) was substituted for one that had introduced the mention of Noah’s piety in contrast with the wickedness of man.

found grace] This familiar expression occurs here for the first time in the Bible. For the expression “find grace” cf. 19:19, 32:5, 33:8, 10, 15. The rendering “grace” is sometimes altered to “favour,” cf. 18:3, 30:27. It is implied that the “favour” which Noah “finds” in the eyes of Jehovah is based on moral grounds. The phrase, common in J, is not found in E or P.

9–12. The introduction to the Story of the Flood in P. Observe that, whereas J begins with the corruption of the human race, and closes with the mention of Noah, P begins with the mention of Noah and continues with the corruption of the human race.

These are the generations, &c.] The heading, or superscription of a new section in the narrative of P; cf. 2:4, 5:1.

a righteous man] The word “righteous” (ṣaddiq), which occupies such an important place in Biblical Theology, occurs here for the first time. The sense of “rectitude,” or “uprightness,” may be derived from a root-idea of “straightness.” It is used of Noah again in 7:1: in Ezek. 14:14, 20 Noah is mentioned, with Daniel and Job, as pre-eminent for “righteousness.” Cf. also Ecclus. 44:17, “Noah was found perfect and righteous; in the season of wrath he was taken in exchange for the world,” and 2 Pet. 2:5, “Noah … a preacher of righteousness.”

perfect] R.V. marg. blameless. Heb. tâmîm. The word “perfect” (LXX τέλειος, Lat. perfectus) means “without flaw.” As a ritual term used of an animal for sacrifice, “perfect” would mean “free from blemish.” Transferred to morals, it denotes “integrity,” as in the account of Job (Job 1:1).

in his generations] viz. amongst the people of his own generation, a different word in the Heb. from the one used in “these are the generations.” It denotes the members of one family, dwelling together, e.g. grandfather, father, son.

walked with God] See note on 5:22–24. The account of Noah as “righteous,” “perfect,” and “walking with God,” embraces three aspects of the good and devout character, justice, purity, holiness.

And Noah begat] See 5:32.

corrupt] The full strength of the word would rather be given by “corrupted.” LXX ἐφθάρη, Lat. corrupta est, “was marred, ruined.” “Before God,” i.e. according to the standard of His judgement. “God” is here ha-Elohim, i.e. the God, the Elohim, absolutely.

violence] The particular form of wickedness represented by this word, here and in v. 13, is doubtless meant to be impious insolence and active disregard of all law of right and wrong. LXX ἀδικίας and Lat. iniquitate miss the specific thought of “violence.”

all flesh] Used here for “all the human race.” The phrase, which is found 13 times in the Story of the Flood, is a characteristic of P.

had corrupted his way] This expression seems to be used with the object of shewing that man was a free agent, and that his corruption was not the result of blind fate, or of any external malign influence.

13–17. Noah is commanded to build the Ark

is come before me] viz. mentally. The intention to destroy all flesh has entered the mind of God.

an ark] The word here used, têbâh, is only found in this passage and in Ex. 2:3–5. It is of foreign origin; according to some, an Egyptian word; according to others, derived from the Assyrian. LXX κιβωτός, Lat. arca, which our translators adopted and transliterated. The “ark” of the Covenant (e.g. Ex. 25:10) is another Heb. word, ‘arôn, but unfortunately rendered also by LXX κιβωτός, Lat. arca.

gopher wood] A word only used here. “Gopher” is said to be a resinous coniferous tree, possibly the “cypress” (cuparissus), to which word it may be akin.

The versions, not realizing that it was a botanical description, made wild guesses at the meaning. Thus LXX ἐκ ξύλων τετραγώνων = “of squared beams”: so, Vet. Lat. ligna quadrata, Vulg. ligna laevigata.

rooms] The meaning is obvious. The interior of the ark was to consist of cabins, or cubicles. The sentence would be rendered literally, “nests shalt thou make the ark.” Vulg. mansiunculas.

pitch] Heb. kopher, a word only found here in the Bible, and its resemblance in pronunciation to “gopher” (see above), is, to say the least, strange. The Assyrian word for bitumen is kupru, and that word is used in the Babylonian account, in which the hero of the Flood is made to say, “Six sars of bitumen (kupru) I spread over it for caulking.” The word suggests (1) that there is some connexion of the Hebrew story with the Babylonian version, (2) that the region was the Euphrates Valley in which bitumen was freely obtainable. The word in Ex. 2:3 is not kopher, but khêmar, which is also found in Gen. 11:3, 14:10.

15. The dimensions of the ark, as here given, are somewhat smaller than in the Assyrian account. Assuming that a cubit measured 1½ feet, the ark was 450 ft. long, 75 ft. broad, and 45 ft. high. It will be noticed that the breadth is exactly one-sixth, and the height exactly one-tenth, of the length. In the Assyrian account we miss these proportions. The length is not given, but the height and breadth are the same, viz. 120 cubits, or 180 ft., broad and high. Berossus, the Greek writer of Babylonian traditions, records that the ship of the Flood was 5 stadia (about ⅔ of a mile) long, and 2 stadia (about ¼ mile) broad.

Alight] Perhaps better than a roof. The word so rendered (ṣôhar) only occurs here in the singular: in the dual it is the regular Heb. word for “noonday.” Accepting the rendering which connects it with “light,” we should probably be right in conjecturing that it means here “a window,” or “opening,” beneath the over-hanging eaves of the roof on both sides of the ark. So Latin, fenestram. In the Babylonian version, a window is mentioned. Others, connecting the word with an Arabic form, render it by roof, deeming that the roof, being of such importance to the inmates, could not have been omitted in the description. LXX ἐπισυνάγων is unintelligible, but possibly gives the idea of the converging sides of the covering.

and to a cubit, &c.] This clause is very difficult. (a) The commonest opinion is that, if the reference be to a window, it was to be a cubit high, running round the ark. This, however, would have been a mere slit, and practically inadequate for purposes of light and air. Perhaps it may mean the distance of a cubit from the top of the window to the roof. (b) The idea that it represented a little square window in Noah’s own cell is fanciful. (c) If the word rendered “light” denoted the roof, the cubit “upward,” or “from above,” might indicate the amount of slope, which, however, would be extremely small. An allusion to the “window” is the most probable explanation. The opening would have run all round the ship, with the necessary intervals of beams and supports. The description must not be judged by modern standards either of ship-building or of hygiene. It is more or less imaginative.

upward] The rendering of the margin, from above, gives a more intelligible meaning.

Gunkel, who considers that the text is corrupt, makes the strange conjectural emendation, “and on a hinge shalt thou make it revolve.”

the door] Cf. 7:16.

stories] The Babylonian account is more elaborate: “Then I built 6 decks in it so that it was divided into 7 stories. The interior (of each storey) I divided into 9 compartments.”

And I, behold, I] The emphasis on the 1st person seems to bring out the thought of the terrible necessity of this act of universal destruction brought upon the world by its Creator.

the flood] Heb. mabbûl, a word used only of the Deluge in this passage (6–9) and in Ps. 29:10, where “the flood of waters” fails to give the meaning, which is “the Deluge (the mabbûl) of waters.”

all flesh] See v. 12. Here, however, it denotes the animals as well as mankind.

the breath of life] Lit. “the spirit (ruaḥ, LXX πνεῦμα) of life,” a different phrase from that in 2:7, “the breath (nishmath) of life” (J). Noah is commanded to enter the ark, taking with him his own family and two of all the animals. The Priestly Writer could not endorse the idea that the distinction between “clean” and “unclean” was known before the days of Moses. In J, however (7:2, 3), it is assumed that this distinction was primaeval (see note).

I will establish my covenant] We have here the first mention of a covenant relation between God and man. In the writing of P great stress is laid upon the covenant with Noah, here and in 9:8–17, and with the patriarchs, e.g. in 17:2–14. The word “covenant” (b’rîth, LXX διαθήκη, Lat. foedus) plays an important part in O.T. theology. Its place here in relation to the manifestation of sin on the one side, and of Divine salvation on the other, is typical of its permanent significance in the history of the Chosen People. It is this relationship of covenant (διαθήκη) which is renewed by our Lord and ratified at the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Matt. 26:28. A covenant means an agreement, or compact between two parties, for the observance of which promises and pledges are given. Cf. on 9:7.

thou, and thy sons, &c.] This is the redundant style of P, cf. 7:13, 8:16, 18.

two of every sort] Observe that here one pair of every kind of living creature is to be brought into the ark.

“Male and female,” as in 1:27 (P). A different phrase is used in 7:2 (J), where see note.

Of the fowl, &c.] The order in which the animals are here mentioned is deserving of notice; first the fowls, then the cattle, and finally the creeping things. What is the reason of this order? Probably the order of the account of the Creation in chap. 1 is followed, where the creation of the fowls is recorded in vv. 20–23, and of the cattle and creeping things in v. 24. The same order is maintained in 1:26.

kind] The same word as in 1:12 (P).

cattle] as in 1:24, denoting domestic animals generally. The only group of animals mentioned in 1:21 and 24, which is here omitted, is “the beast of the earth,” i.e. “the wild beast.” Is this intentional? The LXX adds, after “every creeping thing,” καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν θηρίων = “and of every wild beast.”

creeping thing] See note on 1:24. The exact phrase “everything that creepeth upon the ground after its kind” is reproduced from 1:25. 21.
of all food that is eaten] Presumably vegetables, cereals, and fruit. Cf. 1:29.

Thus did Noah] Lit. “and Noah did (it).” The words of this verse are characteristic of the style of P. We find the same formula in Ex. 7:6, 12:28, 50, 39:32, 43, 40:16, all belonging to P.

Ch. 7:1–5

The account, from J, of the command to enter the ark. The chief difference, between the J and P versions, lies in the number of the animals which Noah is to take into the ark. According to J, Noah is to take seven pairs of every clean animal and two pairs of the unclean; according to P he is to take in with him one pair of every kind of creature living upon earth.

And the Lord] The command of Jehovah. See 6:13, “And God said unto Noah.”

and all thy house] A more brief description of Noah’s family than in 6:18. We should observe here the first mention of a man’s “house,” in the sense of a household, or family. The identification of a man with his family, whether for punishment or for deliverance, is a feature in the ethics of O.T. religion.

for thee] viz. thee alone.

righteous … generation] See notes on 6:9 and 11.

Of every clean beast] The distinction is here made between the clean and the unclean animals. Categories of both kinds, according to the Levitical Law, are found in Lev. 11 and Deut. 14:3–20. In the account given by P (6:19) no allusion is made to this distinction. According to P, the distinctions of clean and unclean were for the first time laid down in the Mosaic legislation, and could not, therefore, be recognized as existing in the primaeval or patriarchal age. According to J, the distinction existed in pre-Mosaic times, and was to be presupposed as having existed side by side with the institution of sacrifice.

seven and seven, the male and his female] By this is meant seven pairs. “The male and his female,” i.e. “each and his mate,” îsh v’ishtô, seems to make this clear. But some consider seven clean animals, and not seven pairs of clean animals, are intended. The words “the male and his female” are different from those rendered “male and female,” zâkâr un’ḳêbah, 1:27, 6:19, 7:3, 9, 16.

The reason why so many more clean animals than unclean are required is, presumably, because they would be wanted (a) for food, (b) for sacrifice, and (c) for domestic purposes.

There is no reason to assume that the J tradition of the narrative shared the opinion of the P tradition, that before the Flood man subsisted on vegetable diet (see 1:29, 6:20, 9:2, 3).

the fowl] Apparently, according to the Hebrew text, all the birds were regarded as clean. Possibly, however, the omission of the distinction between clean and unclean birds is due to the condensed form of the narrative. LXX reads “of fowl also of the air that are clean, seven and seven, male and female,” and of “fowl that are not clean, two and two, male and female.”

And it is very possible that this last clause has been dropped, through the common error of homoeoteleuton on the part of a scribe.

to keep seed alive] viz. “to maintain life,” and “to propagate the species,” literally, “to make seed to live.” The ideas are combined of continuance by breeding and of preservation from destruction: LXX διαθρέψαι σπέρμα gives the one; the Lat. ut salvetur semen, the other.

seven days] Note the period of seven days, the same interval as occurs again, in the J narrative, in 8:10, 12.

forty days and forty nights] The duration of the Flood is here announced. Cf. v. 12 and 8:6. In the Babylonian version the rain lasts for six days.

every living thing] or rather, “every existing thing.” A peculiar word in the Heb. occurring only here and Deut. 11:6. (LXX ἀνάστεμα, Lat. substantiam.) It is, therefore, different from the expression “living thing,” which is used by P in 6:19, 8:1, 17, 21.

destroy] Heb. blot out, so also v. 23 (J): see note on 6:7.

6–9. A description of the entrance into the ark, with evident editorial adaptations to harmonize 6:19 and 7:2 and 15.

6 (P). six hundred years old] P gives Noah’s age at the time of the Flood. In v. 22 he was said to be 500 years old before “he begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth”: see also v. 11.

7 (partly J). Noah went in] This account, which anticipates v. 13 (P), is probably from J, with editorial adaptations to avoid clashing with P.

and of fowls] There is no mention of a distinction between clean and not clean in the birds and the creeping things, see note on v. 3. The mention of a distinction between “clean” and “unclean” beasts (behêmah, “cattle” or “domestic animals” of 6:20) is certainly a later insertion by the compiler. The account in 6:19, 20 (P) does not recognize the distinction of clean and unclean.

two and two] Apparently these words are introduced in order to harmonize the account in this verse with the command in 6:19, and with the description in 7:15. There is no mention of the admission of seven, or of seven pairs, of “clean” animals.

male and female] The same phrase as in v. 3, 6:19: cf. 1:27. It is not the expression of v. 2, “the male and his female” (see note). The compiler is following P, who gives one pair of each kind.

God] Elohim. So LXX ὁ Θεός; but the LXX text is not uniform. God. E and other MSS. κύριος; Lat. Dominus, and the Samaritan version, and the Targum, represent a text which read “Jehovah.” The work of the compiler, which is obvious in these verses, has left the reading in doubt.

7:10–8:14. The Account of the Flood, compiled from J and P

after the seven days] The seven days mentioned in v. 4, the period during which Noah and his family were in the ark, before the commencement of the Flood. The arrangements necessary for the inmates of the ark required time. Moreover, throughout the Genesis story, a period of probation and patience precedes the fulfilment of the Divine word.

the second month, on the seventeenth day] P gives, according to its fondness for statistics, the exact date in years, months, and days. Cf. Ex. 12:41 (P). The months and days apparently are reckoned on the assumption that Noah was born on the first day of the year, 600 years previously. LXX here, and in 8:4, reads “twenty-seventh day,” because of 8:14.

the second month] According to Josephus (Ant. i. 3, 3), this second month was Marchesvan, equivalent to our November, the beginning of the season of rain in Palestine. The account is, therefore, well adapted to Israelite presuppositions. But, on the supposition that Abib, or April, was reckoned as the first month, the Flood would have begun in May, the month in which the Tigris and the Euphrates are liable to be flooded through the melting of the snows in the mountains. It is doubtful whether Tisri (= October) or Abib is here regarded as the first month of the year.

the fountains of the great deep] The origin of the Flood, according to P, was not merely rain. The Israelites believed that beneath the surface of the earth were accumulated enormous reservoirs of water, to supply, through channels or fissures, the seas, lakes, and rivers. This accumulation of water is poetically described as “the deep that coucheth beneath” (Gen. 49:25), and “the great deep” (Ps. 36:6; Isa. 51:10; Amos 7:4). Here it is supposed that the channels, or, as the account calls them, “the fountains of the great deep,” were violently rent asunder, “broken up,” whereupon the subterranean waters swept out in portentous volume and violence over the surface of the earth.

the great deep] On the “deep” (tehom), here called “great,” see note on 1:2.

the windows of heaven] The other source of the Deluge is here given. Above the solid firmament (see note on 1:6) were stored the masses of water which supplied the rainfall of the earth. Now “the sluices of heaven” (cf. 2 Kings 7:2, 19; Mal. 3:10) and “the windows on high” (cf. Isa. 24:18) are thrown open, and the water descends in unrestrained mass. For this description of the waters above and below, cf. Prov. 8:27–29; Job 38:16. LXX οἱ καταῤῥάκται τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, Lat. cataractae coeli. Aquila and Symmachus αἱ θυρίδες.

12 (J). the rain] In this verse the cause of the Flood and its duration are given by J. Its cause, torrents of rain, the Heb. word denoting something much stronger than ordinary rain. Its duration, forty days and forty nights, as in v. 4.

13–16a (P). The Entrance into the Ark, according to P

The repetition of what has already been narrated in vv. 7–9 can hardly fail to strike the reader; and, without our recognition of the composite elements which are here interwoven, it would be unintelligible.

In the selfsame day] Observe that P represents the Flood as ommencing on the same day (cf. v. 11) that Noah entered the ark. There is no account taken here of the interval of seven days, mentioned by J in vv. 4 and 10, preceding the catastrophe. For the expression “selfsame day,” a characteristic of P, cf. 17:23, 26; Ex. 12:17, 41, 51. Lat. in articulo diei illius.

with them] LXX and Peshitto Syriac, “with him,” as in 8:16, 18.

kind] See note on 1:12 and 6:20.

of every sort] Heb. wing. Literally, “every bird, every wing,” i.e. all sorts of birds. The clause is wanting in the LXX. Some scholars prefer the rendering, “every bird, every winged thing,” so that the phrase should include all winged animals, insects as well as birds.

Notice in this verse the comprehensive description of the animal world; “beast” = wild animals, “cattle” = domestic animals, “creeping things,” “fowls,” “winged things of all sorts,” as in 1:21, 24, 25, 26.

all flesh … breath of life] See note on 6:17.

two and two] See note on 6:19, 20. LXX adds “male and female.”

16 (P). as God commanded him] This is evidently P’s account: notice the use of Elohim, and the phrase itself, cf. 6:22, 7:5, 9.

(J) and the Lord shut him in] Notice the introduction of Jehovah. These words are evidently from J, and probably originally concluded the previous account of Noah’s entry into the ark (vv. 7–9) before the seven days mentioned in v. 10, and before the rain (v. 12).

On the anthropomorphism of this action, see note on 6:6; and compare 3:8, 11:5.

17 (R). forty days] Cf. v. 12, where the rain lasts for 40 days and 40 nights. Here it is the duration of the Flood.

18 (P). the waters prevailed] The description given in v. 17 of the rising waters and of the floating ark is here repeated, in order to introduce the record of the more elaborate details contained in vv. 19, 20.

all the high mountains] The account, given by P, describes the covering of the mountains of the whole earth by the waters of the Deluge. It is this hyperbolical description which has naturally seized upon the imagination of readers. It is not necessary to enlarge upon the physical impossibility of such an event. If the literal interpretation were adopted, the waters would have submerged not only the mountains of Western Asia and of Europe, but also the Andes and the Himalayas. Water at that height would have been ice: organic life would have been impossible. Geology has shewn that no such universal Deluge has ever occurred. The accumulation of the vast amount of water represented in such a scene and encompassing the whole globe is beyond the range of physical possibility.

Popular imagination working upon the tradition of a vast inundation in the Euphrates Valley lent itself to exaggeration.

Fifteen cubits] P describes a depth of water of 15 cubits (= 22 feet) above the mountains. Why should 15 cubits be mentioned? Very possibly, because the height of the ark was 30 cubits (6:15), and the ark was considered to be submerged for half its depth. It would thus just touch the top of “the mountains of Ararat” (8:4).

21 (P). And all flesh died] Cf. 6:17. P here describes the death by drowning of all living creatures.

creeping thing] Literally, as marg., swarming thing that swarmeth. See note on 1:20. The word used is characteristic of P.

22 (J). all] The account in this and the following verse gives J’s description of the destruction of all life. The repetition is obvious.

in whose nostrils, &c.] The expression is evidently based upon the words in 2:7, “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” But “the breath of life” of that passage is combined here with “the spirit of life” which we find in 6:17, 7:15 (P). The one is a phrase characteristic of J, the other of P. The combination is not found elsewhere. Possibly the word “spirit” has been introduced by the compiler or by a copyist.

in the dry land] as if to emphasize the thought that the marine animals survived. The word in the Heb. rendered “the dry land” is different from that so rendered in 1:9 (P).

23 (J). was destroyed … were destroyed] The better reading is that rendered in the R.V. marg., and he destroyed every living thing. For the word “destroyed,” Heb. blotted out, see 6:7, 7:4.

24 (P). an hundred and fifty days] The duration of the Flood, corresponding to the 40 days of J in v. 12. According to P, the rising of the waters, described in vv. 18–20, continued or “prevailed” for 150 days, after which the waters began to fall: see 8:3b, 4a.

Ch. 8:1–14. The Diminution of the Waters

1 (P). God remembered] The same expression occurs in 19:29, 30:22. It is a form of anthropomorphism which is not infrequent in the O.T. and which is in continual use in the language of devotion.

and all the cattle] LXX adds “And all the fowls and all the creeping things.” For the expression of pity for the brute beasts, cf. “and also much cattle,” in Jonah 4:11.

God made a wind to pass] The wind was to drive the waters back into their channels, and to dry up the ground. Cf. the action of the wind in Ex. 14:21.

2a (P). the fountains, &c.] The first clause in this verse describes the closing of the sources of the Flood mentioned in 7:11 (P).

2b, 3a (J). and the rain … continually] This is the duplicate account from J, in whose version the rain for 40 days was the cause of the Flood (7:12).

3b (P). after the end, &c.] The 150 days are those mentioned in 7:24.

the seventh month, &c.] The Flood had begun on the 17th day of the 2nd month (see 7:11): the highest point of the Flood is reached on the 17th day of the 7th month. Five months have elapsed. Probably the 150 days were reckoned as five months of 30 days each.

the mountains of Ararat] Ararat is not a mountain, but a district mentioned in Isa. 37:38; Jer. 51:27. It is the country which appears in the Assyrian inscriptions as “Urartu.” It lies between the river Araxes and Lake Van. It comprises a large portion of Armenia. There were high mountains in Ararat; and the loftiest among them, called in the present day Mount Ararat, is over 16,000 ft. high.

Assuming that the tradition referred to this mountain as the highest known, and that the water was said to have covered it by 15 cubits (7:20), the very existence of mountains of the altitude of Mount Everest (31,000 ft. high) was not contemplated. It is more probable that a well-known name like Ararat was accepted, in the Hebrew version of the story, for some similarly-sounding, but less familiar, name of hills in the neighbourhood of the Tigris.

5 (P). the tenth month] Another date is here given. The tops of other mountains were visible on the 1st day of the 10th month. Reckoning 30 days for a month, we thus have an interval of 73 days between the grounding of the ark upon the mountains of Ararat and the visibility of the other mountains.

tops of the mountains] This detail in the narrative suggests that Ararat was thought to be a lonely peak towering above all the neighbouring mountains.

6–12. The Story of the Raven and the Dove. (J.)

at the end of forty days] The forty days mentioned in 7:4, 12. the window] LXX θυρίδα, Lat. fenestram. This was not mentioned by P in the description of the ark in chap. 6. The word used here is the ordinary equivalent for a window (ḥallôn), and is different from the “light” (ṣohar) mentioned in 6:16.

a raven] The Heb. and LXX give the definite article, “the raven,” which some have explained as the only male raven in the ark. But the article is idiomatically generic; cf. v. 8, Gesenius, Heb. Gr. 126, § 4. The Israelite story records the sending, first of a raven, and then, on two successive occasions, of a dove. The Babylonian account records the sending first of a dove, which returned; then of a swallow, which returned; and lastly of a raven, which turned not back.

Noah, stranded with the ark on the highest point, is unable to see anything around or below him.

went forth to and fro] Presumably it was preying upon floating carcases. The “to and fro” suggests the picture of its flitting backwards and forwards, near the ark.

a dove] The definite article is used also here, though there would have been seven pairs of doves. From the opening clause of v. 10, we may conclude that the narrative here was originally fuller, and that this verse must have begun “and he stayed seven days.”

no rest] Compare the Babylonian description, “the dove went to and fro; as there was no resting-place, it turned back.” Clearly the account in these verses implies that only water was visible: it represents an earlier stage than that in v. 5 (P).

put forth his hand] The description is one of great beauty and simplicity. The dove trusted Noah: the ark was its only home. The dove was only for a short time absent from the ark.

yet other seven days] See note on v. 8 The word “other” shews that an interval of seven days has already been mentioned. The importance of the period of seven days seems to receive emphasis from this passage, as well as from 7:4, 10.

at eventide] i.e. at the time when the dove would return to roost; implying a long absence from the ark.

an olive leaf pluckt off] Better, as R.V. marg., a fresh olive leaf. This would shew two things, (1) that the waters had sunk to a level at which the olive would grow, and (2) that life had revived upon the earth. The scene has universally been accepted as symbolical of reconciliation and peace. It finds no counterpart in the Babylonian story. The olive would be the most familiar tree to the dweller in Palestine.

LXX φύλλον ἐλαίας κάρφος, Lat. ramum olivae virentibus foliis.

13 (P). And it came to pass … earth] The disappearance of the waters is dated by P as coinciding with the 1st day of the 1st month of Noah’s 601st year. The 1st month would be Tisri, corresponding to our October. See note on 7:11. Those who assume a reference to the later Heb. reckoning, which was identical with that of the Babylonian calendar, suppose the 1st month to be that of Abib, in the spring time, when the rainy season ended.

(J) and Noah removed] LXX ἀπεκάλυψε τὴν στέγην τῆς κιβωτοῦ, Lat. aperiens tectum arcae.

the covering of the ark] The literal rendering of the Heb. But what it was, and how it was removed, we are not told. The details of the structure of the ark, according to J, were probably left out, in order to make way for the description of P in 6:14–16.

14 (P). And in the second month] We have here the last date in the Flood story. The earth is dry on the 27th day of the 2nd month in the 2nd year. The Flood had begun on the 17th day of the 2nd month in the previous year (7:11). From first to last we have here a period of one year and 10 days. It has been pointed out that a lunar year consists of 354 days; and that one lunar year and 11 days is exactly a solar year of 365 days. This may be merely a coincidence; and in calculating the months we reckon them as solar months of 30 days each.

The LXX in 7:11 dated the commencement of the Flood from the 27th day of the 2nd month of the 1st year; and, therefore, assigns an exact year to its duration.

dry] Note the successive stages in P: v. 5 waters decreased, tops of mountains visible; v. 13 waters gone; v. 14 soil dry.

15–19. Noah is commanded to leave the Ark, and to replenish the Earth. (P.)

that they may breed abundantly] The same word as in 1:20, “let the waters bring forth abundantly” (see note). Cf. 9:7.

be fruitful, and multiply] as in 1:22, 24–28. The repetition of the Creation command marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the world. The fuller blessing, according to P, is given in chap. 9 (vv. 1–7). For the detailed enumeration in vv. 18, 19, cf. 7:13, 14 P.

after their families] A phrase characteristic of P. Cf. 10:5, 20, 31, 36:40. It is in accordance with P’s fondness for method and order that, in his description, the animals are made to leave the ark “after their families”; they had entered it “after their kind” (7:14 P).

20–22. Noah’s Burnt-offering and Jehovah’s Acceptance of it. (J.)

builded an altar unto the Lord] It will be noticed that, in this account by J, the first thing that Noah does, on leaving the ark, is to build an altar, and to offer sacrifice. In J’s estimation sacrifice was primitive, and not merely Mosaic, in origin. See note on 7:2.

In P there is no mention of “altar” or “sacrifice” before the institution of the Levitical system in the wilderness.

of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl] The clean animals were used for sacrifice. Cf. 7:2. Observe the mention of “clean fowl” implying the distinction between clean and unclean fowl. This distinction was not observed in 7:3, 8. The number of “clean” animals, seven pairs of each, in the ark, according to J, would allow for the offering of sacrifice.

In the Babylonian account, also, sacrifices were at once offered to the gods on quitting the ark.

and offered burnt offerings] The word for “burnt offering” is ‘ôlâh, which is derived from a verb meaning “to go up.” A burnt-offering, or ‘ôlâh, was the sacrifice which “went up” to God, being different from other sacrifices, because the whole of it was consumed in the fire of the altar. The offerer of an ‘ôlâh ate nothing of the sacrifice; nor did the priest. It was in an especial sense a propitiatory offering: compare David’s offering in 2 Sam. 24:25. The ‘ôlâh is different from the minḥah of 4:3. LXX renders εἰς ὁλοκάρπωσιν, Lat. holocausta.

smelled the sweet savour] A very strong anthropomorphism which only occurs here. “Sweet savour” is a technical expression in the language of Levitical sacrifice. Cf. Lev. 1:9, 13, 17. Literally, it meant “the smell of complacence” or “satisfaction,” with the idea of restfulness and calm produced. “Sweet savour” is, therefore, somewhat of a paraphrase based on the LXX ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας, Lat. odor suavitatis.

The technical term is employed to express that the offering is acceptable to God. The heart of the offerer is acceptable (the converse of 4:5). See the use made of the phrase “sweet savour” by St Paul in 2 Cor. 2:15, 16.

The Babylonian version describes how “the gods smelt the goodly savour of the sacrifice, and swarmed like flies over the sacrifice.”

in his heart] Lit. “to his heart” = “to himself,” an anthropomorphism similar to that in 6:6. LXX, in order to avoid the term, renders by διανοηθείς; Targum of Onkelos, “by his word.”

curse] i.e. do injury to by a sentence, or decree, of evil.

for man’s sake, for that] Better, as R. V. marg., sake; for the. The difference of the two renderings is obvious: (a) that of the text gives the reason for which God’s curse had been inflicted upon the ground, i.e. man’s sinfulness: (b) that of the margin gives the reason why God will not again curse the ground, i.e. man is essentially sinful; he must not be expected to be otherwise. Perhaps the rendering of the margin which emphasizes the element of mercy is in better harmony with the context. The sentence already pronounced upon the earth in 3:17 (cf. 4:11, 12) had rendered life arduous and distressing.

the imagination of man’s heart] Cf. 6:5.

While the earth remaineth] Observe the poetical character of this verse. The four pairs of words are recorded with an impressive and rhythmical dignity.

Note on the Flood Narrative

I. “The original Babylonian Flood story is often treated as purely mythical, spun out of light (Usener, Die Sintflutsagen, pp. 185 ff.), moon (Böklen, Archiv f. Religionswissenschaft, vi. p. 5 f.), astral (Jensen, Gilgamesh Epos in der Weltgeschichte, i. passim), or other motives. There is certainly a large mythical element in the tale (e.g. the actions of the different gods). But the personal and local names (Ut-napishtim, Shurippak, Nizir), and the nautical descriptions and details, would argue for a certain basis in fact. There seems no real reason to doubt that the story has grown up around the tradition of some great inundation, perhaps accompanied by a cyclonic storm, that overwhelmed the city of Shurippak (cf. Ed. Süss, Das Antlitz der Erde, i. 25 ff. ap. Andrée, Die Flutsagen, pp. 11 ff.), only a few persons escaping on an ark resembling the pitch-covered barges still seen in use on the Euphrates (cf. Lady Anne Blount, Bedouin Tribes of the Euphrates, i. 166). In an alluvial land like Babylonia, such catastrophes were only too liable to occur. Thus Strabo tells of a great rising of the sea in Egypt, near Pelusium, in his own day, which overflowed the land, ‘and converted Mt Casius into an island, so that a journey from Casius into Phoenicia might have been taken by water’ (i. iii. 17). Andrée quotes records of many similar destructive catastrophes in more recent times (op. cit. pp. 143 ff.).” (Gordon’s Early Traditions of Genesis, p. 193, n. 1.)

II. The following brilliant and rapid summary of the Babylonian Flood story is taken from Skinner (p. 175).

“Of the Babylonian story the most complete version is contained in the eleventh Tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic [discovered by G. Smith, in 1872, among the ruins of Asshur-banipal’s library; published 1873–4; and often translated since]. Gilgamesh has arrived at the Isles of the Blessed to inquire of his ancestor Utnapishtim how he had been received into the society of the gods. The answer is the long and exceedingly graphic description of the Flood which occupies the bulk of the Tablet. The hero relates how, while he dwelt at Shurippak on the Euphrates, it was resolved by the gods in council to send the Flood (abûbu) on the earth. Êa, who had been present at the council, resolved to save his favourite Utnapishtim; and contrived without overt breach of confidence to convey to him a warning of the impending danger, commanding him to build a ship (elippu) of definite dimensions for the saving of his life. The ‘superlatively clever one’ (Atra-ḥasis, a name of Utnapishtim) understood the message and promised to obey; and was furnished with a misleading pretext to offer his fellow-citizens for his extraordinary proceedings. The account of the building of the ship (ll. 48 ff.) is even more obscure than Gen. 6:14–16: it is enough to say that it was divided into compartments and was freely smeared with bitumen. The lading of the vessel, and the embarking of the family and dependants of Utnapishtim (including artizans), with domestic and wild animals, are then described (ll. 81 ff.); and last of all, in the evening, on the appearance of a sign predicted by Shamash the sun-god, Utnapishtim himself enters the ship, shuts his door, and hands over the command to the steersman, Puzur-Bel (ll. 90 ff.). On the following morning the storm (magnificently described in ll. 97 ff.) broke; and it raged for six days and nights, till all mankind were destroyed, and the very gods fled to the heaven of Anu and ‘cowered in terror like a dog.’ ”


photo Mansell & Co.

Fragment of Cuneiform Tablet, belonging to the Deluge Series.

(British Museum.)

“When the seventh day came, the hurricane, the Flood, the battle-storm was stilled,

Which had fought like a (host?) of men.

The sea became calm, the tempest was still, the Flood ceased.

When I saw the day, no voice was heard,

And the whole of mankind was turned to clay.

When the daylight came, I prayed,

I opened a window, and the light fell on my face,

I knelt, I sat and wept.

On my nostrils my tears ran down.

I looked on the spaces in the realm of the sea;

After twelve double-hours an island stood out.

At Nizir the ship had arrived.

The mountain of Nizir stayed the ship …” (ll. 130–142).

This brings us to the incident of the birds (ll. 146–155):

“When the seventh day [i.e. from the landing] came

I brought out a dove and let it go.

The dove went forth and came back:

Because it had not whereon to stand it returned.

I brought forth a swallow and let it go.

The swallow went forth and came back:

Because it had not whereon to stand it returned.

I brought forth a raven and let it go.

The raven went forth and saw the decrease of the waters,

It ate, it … it croaked, but returned not again.”

On this Utnapishtim released all the animals; and leaving the ship, offered a sacrifice:

“The gods smelt the savour,

The gods smelt the goodly savour,

The gods gathered like flies over the sacrifice” (ll. 160 ff.).

The deities then began to quarrel, Ishtar and Êa reproaching Bel for his thoughtlessness in destroying mankind indiscriminately, and Bel accusing Êa of having connived at the escape of Utnapishtim. Finally Bel is appeased; and entering the ship blesses the hero and his wife:

” ‘Formerly Utnapishtim was a man;

But now shall Utnapishtim and his wife be like to us the gods:

Utnapishtim shall dwell far hence at the mouth of the streams.’

Then they took me, and far away at the mouth of the streams they made me dwell” (ll. 202 ff.).

“Two fragments of another recension of the Flood-legend, in which the hero is regularly named Atra-ḥasis, have also been deciphered. One of them, being dated in the reign of Ammizaduga (c. 1980) is important as proving that this recension had been reduced to writing at so early a time; but it is too mutilated to add anything substantial to our knowledge of the history of the tradition.… The other is a mere scrap of twelve lines, containing Êa’s instructions to Atra-ḥasis regarding the building and entering of the ark and the latter’s promise to comply.… The extracts from Berossus preserved by Eus. present the Babylonian history in a form substantially agreeing with that of the Gilgamesh Tablets, though with some important variations in detail, see Euseb. Chron. i.”

III. The points of resemblance between the Babylonian and the Hebrew Flood narratives are unmistakable. In both the Flood is a visitation sent in Divine anger. In both, a favoured person receives a Divine warning and is commanded beforehand to construct a ship. In both, precise instructions are given as to the dimensions of the ship, and as to its being covered with bitumen. In both, the whole human race is destroyed in the waters. In both, the entry of the man and his family into the ship, and the shutting of the door, are mentioned. In both, there is an episode with birds. In both, after the waters have abated, the ship has grounded on a mountain. In both, after leaving the ship, the man offers sacrifice. In both, the Divine anger is appeased, and a blessing is pronounced upon the survivors.

This correspondence is too general to be the result of accident. The accounts differ as to details of time, the number and order of the birds, and the sign of the rainbow. These are details; but, as details, are sufficient to shew that the Biblical narratives are not simply reproduced from the Tablets recording the Gilgamesh Epos.

The Babylonian story, in one of its versions, was committed to writing about 2000 b.c. The Flood narrative, therefore, was current among the people of Babylonia and Mesopotamia before the migration of Abraham. Through what process it passed into the literature of the Israelites, can only be a matter of conjecture. Was it the result of early Babylonian influence and civilization in Canaan absorbed by the Israelite invaders? Was it the result of the early Hebrew forefathers having migrated from Mesopotamia into Canaan, carrying their folk-lore with them? Was it the result of Babylonian thought and religion, subsequently encroaching far and wide, and penetrating into Western Asia?

Whatever the process was, the narrative of the Flood is preserved to us, in two Hebrew versions, entirely divergent from the Babylonian in religious spirit, literary style, and character.

(a) Religious spirit. The change from the quarrelsome, deceitful, vindictive pack of Babylonian deities to the One Supreme and Righteous God of the Hebrews imparts strength, dignity, and purity to the narrative.

(b) Literary style. The diffuse and poetical descriptions of the Babylonian epic have made way for the direct, simple, and terse account in Hebrew prose.

(c) Character. The purpose of the Hebrew story is a moral one, to emphasize (1) the corruption of the human race through sin, (2) the Divine anger and disappointment because of man’s sinfulness, (3) the Divine favour and goodness towards the one righteous person, (4) the classical example of salvation, and (5) the Divine promise of future mercy. The Babylonian story is part of an elaborate series of legendary stories, relating to the gods of Babylonia and their dealings with one another and with mankind. It is devoid of any uniform or exalted purpose: it is lacking in reverence and restraint. “The Biblical story of the Deluge possesses an intrinsic power, even to the present day, to awaken the conscience of the world, and the Biblical chronicler wrote it with this educational and moral end in view. Of this end there is no trace in the extra-Biblical records of the Deluge.” (Jeremias, O.T. in the Light of the E. i. 274.)

IV. Other Flood stories are very numerous, and are found among the early legends of races all over the world. Andrée reckoned up eighty-five, of which he considered forty-three to be original, and twenty-six to be derived from the Babylonian (Die Flutsagen ethnographisch betrachtet, 1891). But with the increasing study of anthropology the number is likely to be enlarged. The fact that, according to Andrée, they had not been found in Arabia, North and Central Asia, China and Japan, Europe (except Greece) and Africa, shews that too much ought not to be made of the so-called universality of the legend. Interesting Flood myths are reported from N. American, Mexican, and Polynesian races.

1. A Flood story may refer to a catastrophe overwhelming the primitive dwelling-place of mankind, from which it radiated into the different races of the world. But, ex hypothesi, this would have been an event long previous to any civilized memorials of human history.

2. A Flood story may represent the influence upon crude and savage minds, in comparatively recent times, of the Babylonian tradition or of Christian teaching.

3. A Flood story may embody the recollection of a great local cataclysm, preserved in the folk-lore of the country.

The following are examples of other Flood stories:

1. Egyptian. Egypt was long supposed to have no Flood tradition. Naville (P.S.B.A., 1904, pp. 251–257, 287–294) has recently published the following from a text of the Book of the Dead: “And further I (the god Tum) am going to deface all I have done; this earth will become water (or an ocean) through an inundation, as it was at the beginning” (quoted by Skinner, p. 175).

2. Syrian. “The wickedness of men became so great that they had to be destroyed. Then the fountains of the earth and the floodgates of the heaven were opened, the sea rose ever higher, the whole earth was covered with water and all men went under. Only the pious Deucalion (Xisuthros) was rescued, by hiding himself with his wives and children in a great chest ‘which he possessed.’ When he entered, there came in also, in pairs, every kind of four-footed thing, serpents, and whatever else lives upon the earth. He took them all in, and God caused great friendship to be amongst them. At last the water ran away through a small cleft in the earth. Deucalion opened the chest, built altars, and founded over the cleft in the earth the holy temple of the goddess” (Pseudo-Lucian, De dea Syria, § 12).

3. Phrygian. Coins of Apameia, of the time of Augustus, “show two scenes of the Deluge. On the right is the chest upon waves of water, with a man and woman raising themselves out of it, and upon the open lid of it a dove sitting, whilst a second (!) dove with a branch flies towards it from the left. On the left stand the same figures … with the right hand raised in prayer.… The name Noah [on the chest] rests upon Jewish (or Christian) influence.”

4. Greek. Apollodorus i. 712 ff. “Zeus wished to destroy the generation of mankind … but by the counsel of Prometheus, Deucalion made a chest, put food therein, and entered it with his wife Pyrrha. A few saved themselves by flight to the mountains. After nine days and nights Deucalion landed upon Parnassus. He came forth and offered a sacrifice to Zeus. Zeus permitting him to express a wish, he prayed for mankind; and they arise by his throwing over his head ‘the bones of the mother,’ that is, the stones of the mountain which are changed into men.”

5. Indian. The Brahmana “of the hundred paths” relates: “There came into the hands of Manu, the first man and son of the God of the sun, whilst he was washing, a fish who said to him: ‘Take care of me and I will save you.’ ‘From what wilt thou save me?’ ‘A flood will carry away all this creation, I will save thee from that.’ Manu took care of the fish, which grew strong. When it had become a great fish, he put it into the sea. But first of all it said: ‘In such and such a year the flood will come, so thou mayest prepare thyself a ship and turn (in spirit) to me: when the flood rises thou shalt enter the ship, and I will save thee.’ Manu built the ship, entered it at the appointed time, and bound the rope to the horn of the fish, who had come back and was swimming near. Thereupon it (the fish) hurried away to the mountain in the north, then when the waters sank, the ship rested upon it.… The flood had carried away every creature, only Manu remained. He lived in prayer and fasting, desirous of descendants. He offered sacrifice, and from this there arose a woman. Manu said to her: ‘Who art thou?’ ‘Thy daughter.’ ‘How art thou my daughter, fair one?’ ‘From those sacrificial gifts hast thou begotten me.… Turn to me when thou offerest sacrifice: then shalt thou become rich in children and in cattle.… Through her he begot this generation which is now called the generation of Manu. Whatever blessing he desired from her that he received.”

(For the above, see Jeremias, O.T. in the Light of the East, i. 254–257.)

Ch. 9:1–17 (P). The Conclusion of the Flood Story according to P

The passage falls into two sections: (a) 1–7, (b) 8–17.

(a) 1–7.    The blessing pronounced upon Noah and his family: man’s prerogatives are enlarged; but two prohibitions are imposed: (i) of eating blood, (ii) of manslaughter.

(b) 8–17.    God establishes a covenant with Noah and his descendants, according to which He will never again destroy the inhabitants of the world, and in token of which He appoints the rainbow to be the perpetual symbol of Divine mercy.

Section (b) stands in immediate relation to the Flood story, and corresponds to J’s account of the Divine promise never again to curse the ground (8:21).

And God blessed, &c.] The substance of this verse is a repetition of 1:28. Another chapter in history is begun. As in chap. 1, after the Creation, a single pair confronted the whole earth and its animal world, so here, the single family of Noah is to “replenish the earth,” and receives a special blessing, the assurance of Divine favour.

his sons …] The females are not mentioned, but, as often in the O.T., the wives are included in the mention of the husbands: cf. the Sethite Genealogy in chap. 5.

the fear of you and the dread of you] This is a new feature in God’s ordering of the world. Hitherto (1:28) man had received the command (1) to replenish the earth, (2) to subdue it, (3) to have dominion over the animals. Now, however, a new stage is reached. Man hereafter is invested with the right to take the life of animals for food. The animals, therefore, are in a new measure placed at the mercy of man; and “the fear and the dread” of him are associated with man’s fresh prerogatives.

teemeth] R.V. marg. creepeth, as in 1:29, 30 (P).

into your hand … delivered] i.e. placed at the mercy of you who now have absolute power. Cf. Deut. 19:12, “deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.”

Every moving thing] P assumes here that all animals are capable of furnishing food for man, and that there is no distinction between “clean” and “unclean” in the pre-Mosaic dispensation.

as the green herb] See note on 1:30. As, at the Creation, God said of the whole vegetable world, that it should be man’s food (“to you it shall be for meat,” 1:29), so, now, He declares that the whole animal world shall be food for man. As He gave the vegetable, so now He gives the animal, life to man. But this gift is accompanied with two prohibitions.

But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof] Man’s privilege is attended, first, with a strict ritual prohibition. The words might be more literally rendered thus, “nevertheless flesh with its vital principle (or ‘soul’), which is its blood, ye shall not eat.” The Israelites regarded the blood as in a mysterious way the vehicle of the soul, or vital principle (nephesh), of the flesh (Lev. 17:11). The blood was always offered in sacrifice to God as the most sacred part of the victim, the symbol of its life. The prohibition to eat flesh, with the blood in it, formed one of the strictest rules of Israelite and Jewish life. As the institution of the Sabbath was associated with the age of the Creation, so the prohibition of blood-eating was associated with the age of Noah. In other words, its primitive character was shewn by its traditional origin, being regarded as antecedent even to the Call of Abraham. The infringement of the regulation betokens savage impiety (1 Sam. 14:32–34), or contamination with idolatrous abominations (Ezek. 33:25). In Acts 15:29 to abstain from blood and from things strangled was absolutely necessary for the purpose of holding together the Jewish and Gentile members of the new Christian community. In our own time the Jews observe this regulation with strictness, and the Jewish butcher follows special rules in order that the meat may be entirely freed from blood (“Kosher Meat”).

The passages in the Law bearing upon this important regulation are Lev. 17:10–14, Deut. 12:16, 23.

your blood] The second prohibition is that of manslaughter. The thought of human bloodshed is naturally suggested by the subject of the slaying of animals. Man’s life is sacred. Neither man nor beast is to take it.

the blood of your lives] A difficult expression. Literally, “for,” or “according to, your souls,” i.e. the blood of a person for the life of each person, “blood for blood,” “life for life,” will God require (as v. 6). That “the blood of your souls” means “the blood of your own selves,” as distinguished from “the blood of the animals,” is another explanation, but not so probable.

But either of these renderings is to be preferred to that of Tuch, “for the protection of your lives.”

will I require] This thought that God Himself “will require it,” in the case of human bloodshed, appears in Ps. 9:12, “he that maketh inquisition for blood remembereth them,” and Ps. 10:13, “wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, and say in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.” See also Gen. 42:22, “behold, his blood is required.”

of every beast] e.g. in Ex. 21:28, 29, the ox that gores a person to death is to be stoned.

at the hand of every man’s brother] “Brother” here denotes the brotherhood of humanity, not of a particular family. He who slays a man slays his own “brother,” although technically there is no relationship.

the life of man] i.e. “the nephesh, or vital principle, of man.” In the first clause God had said He would “require” the blood: here He says He will “require” the life. In v. 4 “the life” is “the blood.”

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, &c.] In the first clause of this verse the principle is laid down, that murder is to be punished with death. Blood for blood and life for life is to be the penalty (cf. ver. 5). The sanctity of human life is thus protected by Divine sanction. The custom of blood-revenge (cf. 4:10–15), which has entered so largely into the social conditions of Semitic life, whether civilized or barbarous, is here stated in its simplest terms. The murderer’s life is “required.”

The sentence reads like a line of poetry, Shôphêk dăm hâ-âdâm Bâ-âdâm dâmô yis-shâphêk. LXX seems to have misread bâ-âdâm (= “by man”), rendering ἀντὶ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ = “for his blood” (? b’ dâmô): while in the Latin it is omitted altogether.

for in the image of God, &c.] This clause contains the foundation-principle for the tremendous sentence just promulgated. Man is different from the animals. God made him expressly “in His own image” (see note on 1:27). Violence done to human personality constitutes an outrage against the Divine. Man is to discern in his neighbour “the image of God,” and to honour it as the symbol of Divine origin and human brotherhood. As that “image” is not physical (for God is spirit), nor moral (for man is sinful), it must denote man’s higher nature, expressed by his self-consciousness, freedom of will, reason, affection, &c.

The prohibitions of blood eating and of murder form two of the so-called “commandments of Noah” which were held by the Rabbis of the Jewish synagogue to have been Divinely imposed upon mankind before the days of Abraham; and were, therefore, in theory required from Gentiles living among the Israelites and from Gentiles who attached themselves to the Jewish community.

The “commandments of Noah” are seven—the prohibitions of (1) disobedience, (2) idolatry, (3) blasphemy, (4) adultery, (5) theft, (6) murder, and (7) the eating of blood.

8–17b. The Covenant with Noah

I, behold, I] Cf. 6:17, “I, behold, I do bring the flood of waters.” The same personal emphasis is expressed in proclaiming the mercy of the covenant as previously in the sentence of doom.

establish my covenant] See 6:18. The Pentateuch mentions three covenants between God and man: (1) with Noah, and its token is the rainbow; (2) with Abraham, 15 and 17, and its token is circumcision, chap. 17; (3) with the people of Israel at Mt Sinai, and its tokens are “the blood of the covenant,” the Tabernacle, and the Levitical system (Ex. 24, 25.).

In a covenant between God and man, God makes the promise and lays down the conditions. Man accepts the terms unconditionally, while God “establishes,” or ratifies, them.

There is no equality of relationship as in a covenant agreement between men. Man is pledged to obedience on the strength of God’s promise of blessing. An outward sign is the “sacrament” of the relation.

and with every living creature] The Heb. for “creature” is nephesh, cf. 1:20. God’s covenant with the creatures, as well as with mankind, suggests the thought of the interdependence between the animal world and the human race. Goodness and kindness towards man involve a corresponding blessing upon the animal world. Love is all-pervasive.

a flood to destroy the earth] The promise here given, that there shall never more be a flood, is appealed to by the prophet in Isa. 54:9, 10, “for this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee … for the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”

12. The Token of the Covenant

The word “token,” Heb. ‘ôth is the same as that rendered “sign” in 4:15, “and the Lord appointed a sign for Cain.” The “token” is the outward and visible sign of the covenant relation. Its outwardness serves to remind man, whose spiritual adherence will become weak without something visible as the pledge of the inner and spiritual bond.

I do set my bow in the cloud] Better, as marg., I have set. The Hebrew would literally be rendered “I do give,” or “have given.”

The language is capable of two interpretations:

(1) “I do now, and have just for the first time, set the rainbow in the sky, that mankind may hereafter have a token of the covenant between us.”

(2) “I have appointed my bow, which you and mankind have often seen in the heavens, that henceforth it may be for a token of the covenant between us.”

The former seems preferable. Hebrew legend explains thus the origin of the rainbow. Of course, it must have been visible from the first, being dependent upon the refraction of the light from the particles of water. The words “my bow” imply either that the bow was a familiar object, or that it was God’s gift. The giving of a “token” is not necessarily equivalent to the creation of a feature in nature (cf. 4:15). Nevertheless, the simplicity of the language favours the most literal interpretation; and the promise in vv. 14, 15 suggests that the rainbow was a new phenomenon.

that the bow shall be seen] This should be rendered “and the bow is seen.” The promise is not that the bow shall be seen whenever God sends clouds over the earth, but that, whenever He sends clouds and His bow is visible, then He will remember the covenant.

It is possible that this beautiful employment of the rainbow symbol may be the adaptation of a still earlier semi-mythological conception, according to which the God of Israel is represented in poetry as a warrior armed with bow and arrow (the lightnings are His arrows, cf. Ps. 7:12, 13; Hab. 3:9–11); when His anger had passed, He hung His bow in the clouds. The rainbow does not, however, appear frequently in the imagery of Jewish poetry. In Ezek. 1:28, and in Rev. 4:3, 10:1, it is mentioned in connexion with the appearances of Divine glory. As a feature in nature, it is referred to in Ecclus. 43:12, 50:7.

and I will] This should be rendered “that I will.” It forms the apodosis to the words in 14, “and it shall come to pass when.”

remember] Used of God, cf. 8:1. Here it suggests that the primitive tradition implied that God might forget, if it were not for “the bow.” The word “remember” may be anthropomorphic; but in the later stage of the tradition, as in this passage, the rainbow is the “sign” or “reminder” for man, not for God.

the everlasting covenant] See 17:7, 13, 19; Ex. 31:16; Lev. 24:8; Num. 18:19, 25:13, a phrase used by P. Heb. b’rîth ‘ôlâm, LXX διαθήκη αἰώνιος, Lat. foedus sempiternum.

This is the token, &c.] This verse, according to the style of P, reiterates the substance of 11–13.

18–27. Noah, as the Vine-dresser, and his three Sons. (J.)

In this section the narrative, which begins at v. 20, is introduced by the two connecting verses 18, 19, which either conclude J’s account of the Flood, or are an editorial insertion by the compiler.

(a) 18, 19 Noah and his family leave the ark: (b) 20–24 Noah plants a vineyard, drinks wine, becomes intoxicated, is observed and ridiculed by Ham, but Shem and Japheth shew respect: (c) 25–27 the curse of Noah on Canaan, the blessing on Shem and Japheth.

the sons of Noah] The names of Noah’s sons have already frequently been given in the P narrative (5:32, 6:10, 7:13).

Ham is the father of Canaan] This note has in all probability been inserted by the compiler, with reference to the section vv. 20–27 and the curse pronounced upon Canaan (vv. 25 and 27).

And Noah began to be an husbandman] This expression is an extremely awkward rendering of the strange Hebrew, which is literally “And Noah began man of the soil and planted,” &c. Better, “And Noah the husbandman began and planted a vineyard,” i.e. was the first to do so.

“The husbandman,” lit. “man of the soil,” LXX ἄνθρωπος γεωργὸς γῆς. This description of Noah introduces him in a new capacity. The present section seems to be taken from a distinct tradition concerning the primaeval time, in which Noah appears as the founder of agriculture and of vine cultivation.

and he drank] The representation is that of the man who first made wine out of grapes, and drinking of it in ignorance was overcome by its potency. No blame is attached to him.

Ham, the father of] Words probably inserted by the compiler (R). If so, in the original narrative there stood in this verse simply the name of “Canaan,” “and Canaan saw the nakedness.” Otherwise the curse pronounced upon Canaan, instead of upon Ham, in v. 25, is unintelligible (see note).

According to this view, the old tradition, from which these verses are derived, regarded “Canaan,” and not “Ham,” as the brother of Shem and Japheth.

a garment] Heb. simlah, LXX ἱμάτιον, Lat. pallium: the large upper garment which was also used as a covering by night, as appears from Ex. 22:26; Deut. 24:13. The conduct of Shem and Japheth, in its regard for their father’s honour, is contrasted with the levity and want of delicacy displayed by their brother.

his youngest son] The rendering of the R.V. marg. and of the A.V., younger (so LXX ὁ νεώτερος, Lat. minor), is not permissible. The Hebrew word, where there is a comparison between more than two persons, means “the youngest,” as in the story of David (1 Sam. 16:11, 17:14). The difficulty, which has led to the rendering of the R.V. marg. and the A.V., arises from the fact that in the order of Noah’s sons given by J in v. 18, and by P in 5:32, 6:10, 7:13, and 10:1, Japheth is mentioned third, and was therefore considered to be the youngest. If, however, as seems probable, we are here dealing with a distinct tradition, in which the third and youngest son was Canaan, the difficulty caused by the words, “his youngest son,” taken in conjunction with the curse pronounced upon Canaan (Ham not being mentioned), will disappear.

Origen, in order to escape the difficulty, suggested that Canaan, the youngest son of Ham (10:6), saw his grandfather, Noah, lying exposed, and reported it to his father, Ham; and this theory has found favour with many. But, at the best, it is an ingenious gloss; it is not in the text, but an addition to it.

had done] Nothing is told of the youngest son’s misconduct. So far as our text goes, he had merely reported to his brothers their father’s shameful condition. These words, however, suggest that the narrative in v. 22 has for good reasons been abbreviated or modified.

And he said] Noah’s utterance of a curse upon Canaan and of a blessing upon Shem and Japheth is expressed in poetical terms. The solemn words of a father, as the head of his house, concerning his sons, partook of the character of prophecy, and were expressed in brief oracular sentences. Cf. in the story of Jacob chs. 27, 48 and 49.

Cursed be Canaan] Three times over, in these verses, is the curse repeated against Canaan, while a blessing is pronounced upon Shem and Japheth. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that Canaan here stands on a level with Shem and Japheth, and that he is regarded as Noah’s third son; as, indeed, is expressly indicated by the mention of “his brethren” (vv. 22, 25). The explanation that the wrong-doing of “Ham” is punished by the curse levelled at Canaan, a son of Ham, seems most improbable; but this is the only explanation which the words of the text in v. 22, making “Ham, the father of Canaan,” the offender, will admit. The mention of “Ham” in that verse is almost certainly a late insertion for harmonizing purposes.

A servant of servants] i.e. the meanest of servants, the slave of slaves. Lat. servus servorum. For this method of expressing the superlative, cf. “the Holy of holies,” i.e. the innermost Sanctuary (Ex. 26:33); “prince of the princes” (Numb. 3:32); “God of gods, Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17; Ps. 136:2, 3); “Song of Songs,” i.e. the fairest of songs (Cant. 1:1); “the King of kings,” i.e. the Omnipotent (Ezek. 26:7).

unto his brethren] Canaan is to be the slave of Shem and Japheth. The oracle predicts the subjugation of the Canaanites to the Israelites, and forecasts their inability to resist the power of Japheth. The precise manner in which the subjection of Canaan to Japheth was historically realized must be left uncertain. There is no suggestion of a whole race doomed to a condition of slavery. The application of this clause to the African races is an error of interpretation. Doubtless the power of the Japhetic races was from time to time successfully asserted against the Phoenicians. Japheth represents the races of the West and North.

If Canaan be not here regarded as the brother of Shem and Japheth, it must be assumed that the punishment of Ham is to be inflicted upon his son, Canaan. This is the usual explanation; but it breaks down in view of the fact that all the names are used symbolically and representatively, and the oracle has reference, in each case, not to the individuals, but to their descendants. Hence there would be no point in singling out a son of the real offender, instead of indicating the offender himself.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem] The blessing invoked, not upon Shem himself, but upon Jehovah the God of Shem, is intended to convey the thought that herein will lie the true welfare of the descendants of Shem. The point of this oracle is, of course, dependent on the fact that Shem is to be the ancestor of Israel. The blessing here invoked has reference only to the Hebrews whose God is Jehovah. They are the favoured ones: the God of Redemption will manifest Himself in them. After “Cursed be Canaan,” we should expect to read “Blessed of Jehovah be Shem.” But there hardly seems to be sufficient reason for regarding the text as corrupt. Graetz, who is followed by Gunkel, with a slight alteration of the text, viz. by the transposition of two consonants and by a different reading of the vowels (which of course did not appear in early Hebrew writing), reads, “bless, oh! Jehovah, the tents of Shem” (
אהלי שם for אלהי שם), so that “the tents of Shem” should end this line as well as line 2 in the next verse.

his servant] The translation of the margin, their, is to be preferred. The word in the Hebrew is a poetical form of the plural pronoun; and here the reference is to Canaan’s brethren.

God] The blessing on Japheth is introduced with the name not of “Jehovah,” but of “Elohim.” Jehovah is the God who reveals Himself through the descendants of Shem. The blessing of Japheth shall come from God; but Japheth will not know God by His name Jehovah.

enlarge] The word in the Hebrew, yapht, is employed on account of its resemblance in sound to the name of Japheth. The blessing means, “May God extend the rule of Japheth,” i.e. may the meaning of his name be realized in the extension of his power!

let him dwell] Better than he shall. The “he” in this clause is not God, but Japheth. The clause contains the prayer that Japheth may ever continue on terms of peace with Shem, and that his descendants, dwelling as guests among the Israelites, may partake of their privileges. That “to dwell in the tents of Shem” should mean “to dispossess the Shemites and occupy their homes” (following the analogy of the phrase in Ps. 78:55), is an explanation quite unsuited to a clause of blessing.

The conjecture that “Shem” in this verse is not a proper name, but is the Hebrew word meaning “name” or “renown” (as in 6:4), so that the meaning is “and let him dwell in the tents of renown,” would hardly have been suggested, unless the clause had been one of some obscurity.

his] Better, as R.V. marg., their. See note on v. 26.

28 (P). And Noah lived] This and the following verses are the conclusion of P’s account of the Deluge. In contents and character they belong to the genealogy of the Sethite patriarchs in ch. 5.

Special Note On 9:25–27

There is much uncertainty as to the period of history to which the Song, or Oracle, of Noah may be considered to refer. In all probability, the question must be left undecided.

1. It has been understood to refer to the times of David. Shem, i.e. the Israelites, have subjugated Canaan. Japheth, i.e. the Philistines, coming from the West, have first inflicted defeat upon the Canaanites, and then occupied the S.W. portion of the country of Palestine. But is it possible that an Israelite poet would have spoken so favourably of the Philistines, and have described their arrival under the simile of Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem?

2. It has been understood to refer to the times either of Solomon or of Ahab. Shem, i.e. the Israelites, have subjugated Canaan, and have entered into terms of friendship with Japheth, i.e. the Phoenician; king of Tyre. It is obviously an objection that, in Gen. 10:15, the Phoenicians are ranked among the sons of Canaan. Moreover, it is hardly probable that the devout Israelite would offer to the worshippers of Baal a welcome into the tents of the servants of Jehovah.

3. It has been conjectured (by Gunkel) that the poem has reference to the great racial movements of the second millennium b.c., and that Canaan may represent the earliest Semitic immigrants into Palestine; Shem, the invading races of Aramaeans and Hebrews; Japheth, the northern nations, and, in particular, the Hittites. It may be doubted, whether the migratory invasion of Aramaean and Hebrew peoples would ever have been comprehended by an Israelite singer under the single symbolic name of Shem; and, also, whether he would have regarded any other peoples besides Israel as belonging to Jehovah. Again, if so wide a designation be assigned to Shem, the prayer that Japheth may “dwell in the tents of Shem” becomes unintelligible.

4. It has been conjectured, by Bertholet, that the Song has reference to a late period; that Shem represents the post-exilic Jews; Canaan, the heathen dwellers in Palestine and Phoenicia; Japheth, the Greeks under Alexander, who conquered and subjugated Phoenicia, and received a welcome from the Jews of Jerusalem. But this, beside other improbabilities, assumes too late a date for the composition of the Song.

5. It is better, for the present, to leave our judgement in suspense. But, in all probability, we should be right in supposing that under “Jehovah, the God of Shem,” is contained a reference to the people of Israel; and that in the denunciation of Canaan, “A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,” is implied a time when the subjugation of the Canaanites was not yet complete; when they were still formidable; and when the support of Japheth (unknown peoples (?) in the north) was likely to prove a welcome assistance, though only of a temporary nature, to Israel.

The period, then, might conceivably be not long after the settlement of the tribes of Israel in the land of Canaan.

It only remains to point out the importance of this poetical Oracle in the literature of the Old Testament. (1) It treats of the movements of the nations as ordered and guided by Jehovah. It may thus be described as possibly the first product of Israelite prophecy. (2) In its attitude of generous trust towards Japheth, it is an early example of the spirit of tolerance towards the stranger, which in later Judaism was almost lost in narrow exclusiveness.

Ch. 10

    1 (P).    The Generations of the Sons of Noah.

    2–5 (P).    The Sons of Japheth.

    6, 7, and 20 (P).    The Sons of Ham.

    8–19, and 21 (J).    Nimrod, Babylon, and Assyria: Egypt and Canaan.

    22–31 (P).    The Sons of Shem.

The names of Noah’s sons only occur in Genesis and in the parallel genealogical list in 1 Chron. 1. The distribution of the races of the earth between their descendants necessarily results from the record, in 7:21, of the destruction of all flesh in the Flood.

As will be seen from the names contained in this list, they represent not a formal genealogy, but a table of the principal races and peoples known to the Israelites. They are arranged, as if they were members of families intimately related to one another. This, however, represents the common attitude of the ancient world in explaining the complexity of tribes and peoples, out of which nations had arisen. We may compare early Greek and Roman accounts of the origin of the inhabitants of Greece and Italy in prehistoric times. The names are some of them racial, and some of them geographical. The attempts at identification are precarious, and cannot often be relied upon.

Observe that the order of the sons of Noah is here reversed. Thus the family of Shem is the last to be enumerated, leading up to the Narratives of the Patriarchs (chaps. 12–50).

Now these are the generations] The title of a new section in P; see note on 2:4.

The sons of Japheth] These are names of peoples who for the most part seem to have dwelt in remote northern and western regions in Asia Minor.

Gomer] Mentioned also in Ezek. 38:6. Probably the people dwelling in the region of Pontus in Asia Minor, and called by the Greeks Cimmerians (Κιμμέριοι). Cf. 1 Chron. 1:5, 6.

Magog] appears as the name of a country in Ezek. 38:2, and of a northern people in Ezek. 39:6, generally identified with the Scythians. Sayce conjectures that Magog is for “Mat-Gog” = “land of Gog.” The allusions to Gog and Magog in Rev. 20:8 are based upon the prophetic passages in Ezek. 38 and 39.

Madai] Almost certainly “the land of the Medes.” The people of Media are referred to in the Assyrian inscriptions as “Madai” in the 9th century b.c. In the history of Israel they are first mentioned in 2 Kings 17:6. Cf. Isa. 13:17 and 21:2; 1 Chron. 1:5.

Javan] This is the Hebrew name for “the Greeks.” The Ionians were the Greeks of Asia Minor and of the islands of the Ægean Sea, who were first known to the peoples of Western Asia. They were called in Assyrian Javanu. For other passages in which the Greeks are mentioned in the O.T., cf. Isa. 66:19; Ezek. 27:13, 19; Dan. 8:21, 10:20; Joel 3:6; Zech. 9:13.

Tubal … Meshech] These two names are mentioned, along with Javan, in Ezek. 27:13, 39:1. They have been identified with peoples in N.E. Asia Minor, Tibarenians and Moschians.

In Isa. 66:19 Tubal is classed with Javan and “the isles afar off.” In Ps. 120:5, “Meshech” is used as the name of a barbarous and remote people, “Woe is me that I sojourn in Meshech.”

Tiras] Identified by Josephus (Ant. i. 6) with the Thracians, but now more frequently with a race of sea pirates of the Ægean Sea called Τυρσηνοί. Another conjecture is Tarsus; another, Tarshish; cf. 1 Chron. 1:6.

Ashkenaz] Mentioned in Jer. 51:27 along with Ararat; and now generally identified with the region of Armenia. It is worth noticing that the mediaeval Jews explained this name as denoting Germany. Thus the Ashkenazim are the German Jews.

Riphath] In 1 Chron. 1:6 the name appears as “Diphath.” The letters, R (ר) and D (ד), are very similar in Hebrew. Cf. “Dodanim” for “Rodanim,” v. 4. Josephus identified “Riphath” with the Paphlagonians. The name is now unknown.

Togarmah] Mentioned also in Ezek. 27:14, with Javan, Tubal and Meshech; and in Ezek. 38:6, with Gomer, and generally identified with the western part of Armenia. Cf. 1 Chron. 1:6.

the sons of Javan] The names here mentioned are evidently geographical. Javan’s sons are well-known Greek colonies and settlements or communities. This example will serve to illustrate the composition of the genealogical list.

Elishah] Mentioned in Ezek. 27:7 as a place from which there was a trade in purple. Josephus identified it with the Æolians. Other conjectures have been Hellas, Elis, Sicily, and Carthage. Possibly, it is Alasa, the modern Cyprus.

Tarshish] Probably the ancient commercial town of Tartessus, at the mouth of the river Guadalquivir. It is classed with the isles in Ps. 72:10, Isa. 60:9. Its trade is mentioned in Ezek. 27:12. On “the ships of Tarshish” in King Solomon’s time, see 1 Kings 10:22, 22:48. There were Greek settlements at Tartessus. Cf. Herodotus, i. 163.

Kittim] Usually identified with Cyprus and its inhabitants. The chief town was Κιτίον, the modern Larnaca, and was probably occupied at an early time by Greek-speaking people. The name “Kittim” became transferred from Cyprus to other islands. Cf. Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6.

Dodanim] In 1 Chron. 1:7, Rodanim. The LXX and Sam. agree with 1 Chron. 1:7; and this reading is generally preferred, Rodanim being identified with the island of Rhodes. In Ezek. 27:15, “the men of Dedan” similarly appear in LXX as ῥόδιοι, i.e. the Rhodians trafficking with the city of Tyre.

Of these, &c.] It is probable that the text in this verse has suffered. As in v. 20 we find “these are the sons of Ham” and in v. 31 “these are the sons of Shem,” so we should expect in this verse “these are the sons of Japheth.” We should, therefore, probably put a full stop after the word “divided,” and insert: “These are the sons of Japheth.” This will improve the sense; for (1) the words “of these” cannot refer generally to the contents of vv. 2 and 3, but only to the contents of v. 4; (2) while the expression “the isles were divided in their lands” is intolerably harsh. “Of these” should be taken to refer to “the sons of Javan” only. From them the Greek settlements branched off in all directions among the islands and the coastlands, i.e. “the isles of the nations.” After this piece of information the genealogist summarizes the foregoing list, “These are the sons of Japheth in their lands, every one after his tongue,” &c.

isles] Better, as R.V. marg., coastlands. Cf. Isa. 11:11; Jer. 2:10; Ezek. 27:6.

6–20. The Sons of Ham

6. The races described as “the sons of Ham” are first traced in the most southerly regions. If the name has any connexion with Kamt, the native name of Egypt, it is noticeable that it is here applied to the parent stock of peoples, not only in Egypt, but also in South Arabia, Phoenicia, and Syria. “Ham” is used as a synonym for Egypt in Ps. 78:51, 105:23, 27, 106:22.

Cush] A name of frequent occurrence in the O.T. for Ethiopia and the Ethiopians, i.e. the country and the people between Egypt and Abyssinia; the “Kas,” or “Kes,” of the Egyptian inscriptions. Cf. on 2:13.

Mizraim] The regular Hebrew name for Egypt. Cf. the Assyrian Muṣur. The termination “-aim” denotes the dual number; and hence it has been supposed that “Mizraim” means the two “Mizrs,” i.e. Upper and Lower Egypt. But we cannot rely on this for certain. “Mizraim” is the Hebrew name for Egypt without necessarily containing an allusion to this geographical division. It is best not to press the grammatical meaning that may be claimed to underlie the popular pronunciation of a geographical name; cf. Ephraim, Naharaim, Jerusalaim (= Jerusalem).

Put] Mentioned also in Ezek. 27:10, 38:5; Jer. 46:9; Nahum 3:9. In these passages “Put” is mentioned together with the composite materials of an Egyptian mercenary army. It is generally identified with the Libyans. Pliny mentions a river “Fut” in Libya. In Nahum 3:9 Put is associated with the “Lubim,” and with Ethiopia and Egypt. Punt occurs in Egyptian inscriptions for the African “littoral” of the Red Sea.

Canaan] This is the land of Phoenicia, probably in its widest sense, like Kinaḥi in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets (1400 b.c.). The Canaanites were Semites, and spoke a language which closely resembled Hebrew, and was more akin to Aramaean and Assyrian than Egyptian. Canaan was possibly associated by Israelite tradition with Egypt on account of the general similarity of its culture. Perhaps the Israelites, who regarded the Egyptians and the Canaanites as their two racial foes, and as the two corrupters of their faith, classed them together for that reason among “the sons of Ham.”

And the sons of Cush] The names given in this verse are usually identified with the names of tribes, or places, on the African coast, or on the opposite shores of Arabia.

Seba] Cf. Ps. 72:10; Isa. 43:3, 45:14, where it is named with Egypt and Cush; identified by Josephus (Ant. Jud. ii. 10, § 2) with “Meroë”; but now generally supposed to denote tribes on the coast of the Red Sea in the neighbourhood of Massowah.

Havilah] The name occurs again in v. 29 among “the sons of Joktan”; possibly a branch of the same Arabian tribe which had settled on the African coast. See also 2:11, 25:18.

Raamah] Mentioned also in Ezek. 27:22 for its trade with Tyre, and with Sheba.

Sabtah … Sabteca] Unknown.

Sheba] Also in v. 28, among “the sons of Joktan,” and in 25:3, among “the sons of Keturah.” The trade of this people and their dependencies consisted especially of spices, precious stones, and gold (Ezek. 27:22). The occurrence of the name of “Sheba” here among the sons of Ham, and in v. 28 among the sons of Shem, illustrates the difficulty of identification.

Dedan] Mentioned also in 25:3; apparently an Arabian tribe, bordering on Edom (Ezek. 25:13), and occasionally brought into contact with Israel through trade. Cf. Isa. 21:13; Jer. 25:23; Ezek. 27:20.

8–19 (J). Nimrod, Assyria and Babylon: Canaan and Egypt

8–12 (J). Nimrod

Cush begat Nimrod] In connexion with the “sons of Cush” we have here an Israelite tradition that the foundation of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires was due to “a son of Cush,” named Nimrod. What, if any, was deemed to be the connexion between Cush, and the origin of Babylon and Nineveh, is not related. At least, the explanation which has been hazarded, that some prehistoric Ethiopian monarch, having invaded and conquered Western Asia, founded the great cities of the Euphrates Valley, has not hitherto received confirmation.

Modern scholars call attention to the prominence of a people designated as the Cossaeans, Κοσσαῖοι, Assyr. Kashu, in Babylonian history. They were predominant in Babylonia between 1800 and 1200 b.c. It is suggested that the early Israelite tradition identified the name of this people with the similarly sounding name of the African Cush, and that, in the halo of romance and legend encircling the name of Nimrod, the Ethiopian origin of the founder of Babylon presented no serious difficulty.

Nimrod] Mentioned elsewhere in 1 Chron. 1:10, Micah 5:6. Here he is described under two aspects: (1) as a mighty hunter, (2) as king of Babylonia, and founder of the chief cities in Assyria.

Assyriologists have been inclined to identify Nimrod with the mythical Babylonian hero, Gilgames, the hunter and lion-slayer, represented in Babylonian art as throttling, or gripping, a wild animal. No similarity in the name has yet been ascertained. Jeremias suggests that Nimrod is the Hebrew pronunciation of Nâmir-Uddu = “shining light.” Another conjecture would identify him with the Cassite, or Cossaean, king Nazi-maruttash (circ. 1350 b.c.): but, if so, Israelite tradition seems to have transferred the name of a comparatively recent king (more recent than the patriarchs) into the ages of legendary obscurity.

began to be a mighty one] A strange expression. The word “began” should be connected with “the beginning of his kingdom” in v. 10. “He was the first great monarch.” Compare “began to be an husbandman” (9:20).

a mighty hunter before the Lord] The phrase “before the Lord” is merely descriptive of magnitude, cf. 23:6, “a great prince” (Heb. a prince of God), Jonah 3:3, “Nineveh was an exceeding great city” (Heb. a city great unto God). But it is possible that the expression is traceable to some primitive traditions respecting the hunting exploits of Nimrod, and the favour shewn to him by his God.

The popularity of hunting scenes in Assyrian art may have led to a general impression that the founders of the Assyrian and Babylonian kingdoms were famous huntsmen.

It is noteworthy that in later times Nimrod was identified with Orion, both as a hunter and as a constellation. Hence some have fancifully explained these words to mean “a hunter in heaven.”

wherefore it is said] The quotation of a proverb: Nimrod’s name became proverbial for a great hunter.

the beginning of his kingdom] Nimrod is represented, not as the founder of the Babylonian cities, but as their king. His four cities are enumerated:

1. Babel, i.e. Babylon, as the Hebrew is rendered in the Greek: Assyrian Babilu, possibly = “the gate of God.” This was the capital of the Babylonian empire from the time of Hammurabi who founded that empire, circ. 2130 b.c.

2. Erech, the Uruk of the inscriptions. LXX Ὀρέχ, the modern Warka, was the principal seat of the Babylonian deities Anu and Istar, and the scene of the exploits of the mythical hero Gilgames.

3. Accad, the Agade of the inscriptions, the chief town in ancient northern Babylonia, and the capital of Sargon the First, one of the earliest Babylonian kings.

4. Calneh, of doubtful identification; not to be identified with the Syrian town Calneh (Amos 6:2). Jensen conjectures that there is an error of one Hebrew letter, and that we should read for Calneh Cullaba, an important town in Babylonia. Another conjecture is Nippur.

in the land of Shinar] i.e. in Babylonia, which comprised both northern Babylonia or Accad, and southern Babylonia or Sumer.

Out of that land, &c.] This verse preserves an historical tradition: (1) that the cities of Assyria were of later origin than those of Babylonia; (2) that they owed their existence to the development of the Babylonian power in a northerly direction; whether by conquest or by colonization we cannot tell.

into Assyria] or “Asshur.” There is no difference in the Hebrew between the name of the country and that of its first capital (see 2:14). The city Asshur was distant about 300 miles from Babylon.

The rendering of the R.V. marg. = A.V. went forth Asshur has no probability, though it has the support of LXX, Vulg., and Targ. Onk.

Nineveh] Assyr. Nina, the modern Kouyunjik, situated on the left bank of the Tigris, opposite to the modern Mosul. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria in its most famous period, but it was not until about 1000 b.c. that it became the royal residence of Assyrian monarchs. Nothing historical is known of its earliest days.

Rehoboth-Ir] Possibly to be identified, as some Assyriologists suggest, with Rêbit Nina, on the site of the modern Mosul, over against Nineveh.

Calah] The modern Kellach, at the confluence of the upper Zab and the Tigris, some 20 miles S. of Nineveh. It stands on the ruined mounds of Nimrud. The capital of Assyria was transferred by Shalmaneser I, circ. 1300 b.c., from Asshur to Calah.

Resen] Not yet identified; but conjectured to lie among the mounds which conceal ruins between Nineveh and Nimrud.

(the same is the great city)] This is a note added by the compiler; or, possibly, as Skinner suggests, a gloss, referring to Nineveh, which is misplaced.

13–19 (J). The descendants of Mizraim (Egypt), vv. 13, 14; and of Canaan (Phoenicia), vv. 15–19. The names of tribes (the plural termination -im) in vv. 13 and 14, and of peoples (vv. 16–19), seem to imply a different source of tradition from that in vv. 2–7.

Mizraim] In v. 6, “the sons of Ham” are Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan. The “sons of Cush” were given in v. 7. In vv. 13, 14 the genealogy is continued with the “sons of Mizraim.” The intervening passage (vv. 8–12) has been a parenthesis. The names here mentioned are probably tribes on the borders of Egypt.

Ludim] Mentioned also in Jer. 46:9; presumably the same as Lud in Isa. 66:19; Ezek. 27:10, 30:5.

the Anamim] W. Max Müller suggests that these are the Kinamim who dwelt in the largest and southernmost oasis, designated in the Egyptian inscriptions K’n’mt. Very strange is the reading of the LXX Αἰνεμετιείμ. Cf. 1 Chron. 1:11.

Lehabim] Possibly the same as the “Libyans,” who appear as Lubim in 2 Chron. 12:3, 16:8; Dan. 11:43; Nahum 3:9. The Libyans were the African tribes west of Cyrene.

Naphtuhim] The Egyptologist Erman suggests that this name is the corruption of the word P-t-mḥi, the Egyptian designation for the dwellers in the north, i.e. the Delta of Egypt (Z. A. T. W. 1890, pp. 118, 119).

Another suggestion is that it represents the name of the third great oasis, between Ammon and K’n’mt, bearing the name of Ferâfia. Cf. 1 Chron. 1:11.

Pathrusim] Clearly to be identified with Upper Egypt, “the southlanders.” “The land of the midday,” Egyptian Ptrsi, is the Pathros of Isa. 11:11; Jer. 44:1, 15; Ezek. 29:14, 30:14.

Casluhim] Not known; LXX Χασμωνιείμ, which has caused Max Müller to conjecture Nasamonim, a tribe in the vicinity of the great oasis of Ammon. Cf. 1 Chron. 1:12.

(whence went forth the Philistines), and Caphtorim] The parenthetical clause within the brackets seems to be out of place. According to Deut. 2:23, Jer. 47:4, Amos 9:7 the Philistines came out of Caphtor. Accordingly, we may conjecture the clause originally stood after the word “Caphtorim,” and has been accidentally transposed. On the other hand, this explanation seems so obvious, that some scholars consider that the clause “whence … the Philistines” is in its right place, but that the words “and Caphtorim” are only a gloss on the mention of “the Philistines.”

the Philistines] Heb. Pelishtim, identified by many Assyriologists with the Purasati, a predatory horde which established itself in the 13th century b.c. in the south of Phoenicia. On the origin of the Philistines, see Macalister’s Excavations at Gezer (Pal. Ex. Fund, 1912).

Caphtorim] The people of Caphtor which has commonly been identified with Crete. The only traces of real artistic work found at Gezer by Macalister were Minoan in character.

Canaan] Observe that we pass from Cush and Mizraim to Canaan, the fourth son of Ham; omitting Put, the third son in v. 6.

Zidon his firstborn] “Firstborn”; i.e. the capital, and most ancient city, of the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians called themselves Zidonians, and were so called by the Israelites. Cf. 1 Kings 16:31. Zidon probably means “fish-town.”

Heth] i.e. the Hittites called by the Egyptians “Khêta,” and by the Assyrians “Khatti.” It is more than doubtful whether the Hittites had any connexion with the Phoenicians. Their language has not yet (1913) been deciphered. The Hittite empire appears to have lasted from 1800 b.c. to 700 b.c. Carchemish on the Euphrates was for a time their capital. They made their influence felt throughout Syria and Asia Minor. Their famous collision with Egypt occurred in the reign of Rameses III, about 1180 b.c. The mention of Heth as the “son of Canaan” is probably to be understood as indicating the presence of a large number of Hittite dwellers in Phoenicia and Palestine. There are traces of these elsewhere in O.T., e.g. ch. 23; Num. 13:29; Judg. 1:26; 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6. The supremacy of the Hittites throughout Syria and Canaan belongs to the period shortly after the age represented by the Tel-el-Amarna tablets (1400 b.c.).

the Jebusite] The Canaanite tribe dwelling in Jerusalem and its neighbourhood: cf. Josh. 15:63; Judg. 1:21; 2 Sam. 5:6.

the Amorite] In the Tel-el-Amarna tablets the name Amurru is given to the dwellers in the north of Canaan in distinction from the Kinaḥi, the dwellers in southern Canaan. Later on, the name Amorite seems to have been used by the Assyrians to designate Palestine. In the O.T. the original inhabitants of Canaan are sometimes called by this name; e.g. Judg. 1:34–36; Amos 2:9. See Driver, Schweich Lectures, p. 36.

the Girgashite] Mentioned e.g. 15:21, Deut. 7:1, with the other dwellers in Canaan, but their locality is not indicated.

the Hivite] The Hivites, dwellers in the country about Gibeon (Josh. 9:7) and Sichem (Gen. 34:2); while Josh. 11:3 and Judg. 3:3 speak of the Hivites as dwelling near Mount Hermon and Mount Lebanon, though in neither passage is the reading (? Hittites) certain.

the Arkite] A Phoenician tribe represented by the modern Tell Arḳa, some 80 miles north of Zidon, and not far from Tripolis.

the Sinite] Jerome mentions a town Sini near Arka.

the Arvadite] Arvad, a famous maritime town, the modern Ruwâd on an island 100 miles north of Zidon; cf. Ezek. 27:8, 11.

the Zemarite] The dwellers in Simyra, modern Sumra, a few miles south of Ruwâd. It appears in the Tel-el-Amarna Letters as Zumur.

the Hamathite] The dwellers in Hamath, modern Ḥama, the famous ancient town to the extreme north of Canaan, on the Orontes, and the capital of a small kingdom overthrown by Sargon. Cf. Num. 34:8; 2 Kings 18:34; Amos 6:14.

and afterward] It has been conjectured that this clause followed originally upon the mention of “Zidon his firstborn and Heth,” ver. 15, and that the intervening passage (vv. 16, 17, 18a) is a later addition. The clause leads up to the description, in ver. 19, of the subsequent boundaries of Canaan. The writer implies that the “families of the Canaanite,” who were driven out by the Israelites, were themselves not the original inhabitants.

In favour of 16–18a being a gloss, note (1) the change from the proper names, “Zidon” and “Heth,” to the appellatives, “the Jebusite,” “the Amorite,” &c.: (2) the delimitation of “the Canaanite” in v. 19 excluding the Arkite, Sinite, Arvadite, Zemarite, and Hamathite, who in vv. 16 and 17 are included in the “sons of Canaan.”

And the border of the Canaanite] This verse describes the geographical limits of the extension of the Canaanite peoples in a southerly direction, with Zidon as the starting-point in the north. As the limit on the south-west, we have “toward Gerar unto Gaza,” and on the south-east “toward Sodom and Gomorrah, &c. unto Lasha.” This would represent a triangle, having Zidon on the north, with Gaza and Lasha on the south-west and south-east. The description is not free from obscurity. “Toward Gerar unto Gaza” is hardly a natural definition; since Gaza lies to the north of Gerar.

“Lasha,” or, as we should read it, “Lesha,” was identified by Jerome with “Callirrhoe” on the east side of the Dead Sea; but, as the name does not occur elsewhere, this is only a traditional conjecture. Kittel (Biblia Hebraica) identifies it with “Bela,” or “Zoar” (14:2) which is mentioned together with the four “cities of the plain.”

For “Lasha,” Wellhausen conjectures “unto Laish” in the north-east of Palestine, which would give a fourth geographical limit of the Canaanite border, and alter the scheme of delimitation from a triangular to a four-sided area of country.

These are the sons of Ham (P), &c.] Cf. ver. 31; and the note on ver. 5.

The synonyms here given are characteristic of P’s fondness for redundancy and repetition.

21–31. The Sons of Shem (J and P)

And unto Shem, &c.] The brief account in verse is from J.

the father of all the children of Eber] This is the point in the description of Shem which would seem most honourable to Israelite readers. The names “Eber” and “Hebrew” are almost identical in the Hebrew language. “Eber” was accepted as the ancestor of the Hebrew-speaking peoples. In the widest sense of the word, “Hebrews” are a group of Semitic peoples who issued from the Arabian Peninsula. They are included among the descendants of Joktan and Peleg, as well as of Terah. For the ordinary derivation of the word “Hebrew,” as = “the man from the further side” of the river, see v. 24 and 14:13. The term “Hebrew” is racial, “Israelite” national; though ultimately used as synonyms.

the elder brother of Japheth] These words seem to be inserted, in order to remind the reader that Shem, though here mentioned last, was the eldest of Noah’s sons. The rendering of R.V. marg., the brother of Japheth the elder, is very improbable.

The sons of Shem] This is the account by P, corresponding to the previous mention of “the sons of Japheth,” v. 2, and “the sons of Ham,” v. 6.

Elam] The name of a people and a country east of the Tigris and north of the Persian Gulf. The Elamites were at one time supreme in Western Asia (see note on 14:1). They do not appear to have been a Semitic race; but the place of Elam in this verse probably indicates the easternmost people with which the descendants of Shem were brought into contact.

Asshur] See note on v. 11. The Assyrians were the most powerful of the Semitic peoples.

Arpachshad] This name used to be identified with Ἀῤῥαπαχῖτις, a mountainous region north of Assyria, but this does not explain the two final syllables in which we naturally recognize Chesed, or the Chasdim, viz. = the “Chaldeans,” a people dwelling in the south of Babylonia. Sayce explains the word to mean “the wall of Chesed,” i.e. “the fortress-protected country of the Chaldeans.” Cheyne thinks that the name in this passage and elsewhere is an erroneous fusion of two names, “Arpach” and “Chesed.” (Z.A.T.W. 1897, p. 190.

Lud] Presumably the Lydians of Asia Minor, though it is difficult to explain why they should be here associated with the “sons of Shem.”

Aram] The people inhabiting the whole country north-east of Palestine, the northern region of the Euphrates Valley (Aram-Naharaim) and the country of Syria proper (Aram-Dammesek).

The people denoted by Aram were destined to exercise a great influence throughout Western Asia. The Aramaean language gradually prevailed over the other Semitic dialects, and before the Christian era it had displaced even the Hebrew language among the Jews. The Aramaic tongue spoken by our Lord and the Apostles was like the language in which portions of the books of Ezra and Daniel were written.

the sons of Aram] These names convey nothing to us, though presumably they possessed importance in the geography of the Hebrews.

Uz] The country of Job: see Job 1:1. Generally considered to have been in the south of Palestine. The name occurs again in another genealogy, 22:21, 36:28; cf. Jer. 25:20. In Lam. 4:21, Uz is associated with Edom. These references however do not suit “a son of Aram.”

Mash] In the parallel passage (1 Chron. 1:17) = Meshech.

24–30 (J). Genealogy of Shem

A section from J, who speaks not of peoples, but of individuals of the heroic age. See 11:10–19 (P) for a duplicate mention of “Arpachshad, … Peleg.”

begat Shelah] R.V. marg. “The Sept. reads begat Cainan, and Cainan begat Shelah.” This addition is followed in Luke 3:36.

Eber] See note on v. 21. Eber is evidently the most important name in this genealogy. As the grandson of Arpachshad, his name stands geographically in some kind of connexion with Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad and Aram. Êber in the Hebrew means “on the other side of.” The ancestors of Israel are described as those who “dwelt of old time beyond the River” (êber ha-nâhâr = “on the other side of the Euphrates river”). See Josh. 24:2.

Peleg] R.V. marg. That is, Division. His descendants are not recorded. In 11:18–23 (P) Peleg is the father of Reu, the father of Serug, the father of Nahor. Eber’s two sons, Peleg and Joktan, apparently represent the two divisions of Shemites, Peleg the northern or Mesopotamian, Joktan the southern or Arabian.

was the earth divided] The reference is generally assumed to be to the division, or dispersion, of the peoples at the tower of Babel, the words being an anticipation of the story in 11:1–9. “The earth” will then mean “the inhabitants of the earth,” as in 11:1 and 19:31.

Sayce, on the strength of palgu being Assyrian for “canal,” would conjecture “the division of the earth” to signify the introduction of a system of canals into Babylonia during the reign of Hammurabi.

Perhaps, however, the name Peleg may indicate the historic “severance” of the northern Shemites from their southern brethren.

Joktan] The genealogy of Eber’s elder son, Peleg, is here omitted, evidently because the compiler is giving the descendants of Peleg in 11:18 from P; in which passage Joktan’s name is not mentioned.

The thirteen sons of Joktan probably represent tribes in Arabia. The division of the population into tribes, continually warring with each other, has always been a feature of the Arabian Peninsula.

Dillmann suggests that one name has been interpolated; and that, as in the case of Israel, the number of tribes was originally twelve. Obal’s name is omitted in some MSS. of LXX.

Most of their names have been, with more or less reason, identified with places in Arabia, for details of which the student should consult the dictionaries.

Sheleph] The name of a tribe, or region, in the Yemen, or southern Arabia.

Hazarmaveth] This name is very probably reproduced in the district of S. E. Arabia called the Ḥadramaut.

Uzal] Mentioned in Ezek. 27:19, cf. R.V. marg., as a place from which iron was brought. Traditionally the old name of Sana the chief town of Yemen.

Obal] In 1 Chr. 1:22 Ebal, where LXX Cod. B omits. Here several MSS. of the LXX omit the name.

Sheba] See also ver. 7: presumably the Sabeans of south-west Arabia whose extant inscriptions shew that at one time they must have been a prosperous and civilized community. For the Queen of Sheba, see 1 Kings 10.

For its exports of frankincense cf. Isa. 60:6, Jer. 6:20. Its merchandise is mentioned in Job 6:19, Ezek. 27:22, Ps. 72:10.

Ophir] Famous for its trade in the days of Solomon, 1 Kings 9:28, 10:11, 22:48, and for its gold of especial purity. Cf. Job 22:24, 28:16; Ps. 45:9; Isa. 13:12. Its locality has been much disputed; it has been identified, at different times, with regions in India, East Africa, and the south coast of Arabia. In the present context it is evidently connected with Arabia.

Havilah] See 2:11 and 25:18. Possibly a district in north-east Arabia.

Mesha] Dillmann conjectures “Massa” (25:14), a north Arabian tribe. This is not improbable, if this verse delimits the geographical borders of “the sons of Joktan.”

Sephar] Probably the same as Daphar, a town on the south coast of Arabia.

the mountain of the east] Better, as marg., the hill country. Probably the famous frankincense mountain in south Arabia, with Daphar as its furthest point, was reputed the southern limit of “the sons of Joktan.”

These are, &c.] Cf. vv. 5, 20.

of these were the nations divided] Cf. v. 1, 9:19. The word rendered “divided” is different from that in ver. 25, but is the same as that which is found in ver. 5. Looking back we can discern the object of the compiler in demonstrating (1) the unity of the race through Noah; (2) the origin of the peoples through his sons; (3) the origin of Israel through Shem and Eber.

Ch. 11:1–9. The Story of the Tower of Babel. (J.)

The story of the Tower of Babel, contained in this short passage, preserves the recollection of a strange Israelite piece of folk-lore. No trace of this narrative has with any certainty, up to the present time, been discovered in the cuneiform inscriptions. Nor is this altogether surprising. The story connects the famous capital of Babylonia (Babel = Babylon) with an enterprise which is described as so colossal in its insolent impiety as to necessitate the personal interposition of the Almighty, Jehovah Himself. The success of the enterprise is frustrated by the simple exercise of the Divine Will; and the result is that the human race, which before had possessed one language, became in an instant subdivided into different communities by diversity of speech. The strangeness and the simplicity of the story inevitably seize upon the imagination. That it is devoid of any foundation in history or science hardly requires to be stated. So far as concerns the diversity of languages, science shews no tendency to favour the hypothesis, either of Babylonia having been the point of dispersion for the languages of the world, or, indeed, of the languages of the world having had any single common origin. Even the hopeful attempt in the 19th century to reduce the languages of the world to three great families, or groups of dialects, each characterized by distinctive features of word formation and grammar, has in recent years been abandoned. The recognition of the existence of a far larger number of independent languages than before was supposed possible has shewn that the problem is one of immense complexity. We are led to suspect that the mystery of the origin of distinct languages belongs to the dim obscurity of the infancy of the human race, an infinitely remote and prehistoric age.

With this conclusion the account in the Book of Genesis stands in some measure of agreement. The story of the Tower of Babel is suddenly interposed between the genealogies which lead up to the birth of Abram. Though it supplies a theory which would account for the dispersion of the peoples of the world, it is evident that the Hebrews themselves did not regard the story as satisfying the problem. The tenth chapter of Genesis had already recorded the standard Hebrew tradition. It attributed the peopling of the world and the diversity of languages (vv. 5, 20, 31) to the dispersion of the descendants of the three sons of Noah. This was the working hypothesis, if we may so call it, of Israelite tradition in explaining the origin of the races. The present story by the suddenness of its introduction, the vagueness of its details, and the abruptness with which it breaks off, as well as by its startling anthropomorphic features, reminds us of the parenthesis in 6:1–4. It reads like a fragment of an independent primitive tradition. It possessed an interest which justified its preservation, even though its details were hardly reconcilable with the narratives in 9 and 10. It preserved a legend which (1) accounted for the diversity of race by the diversity of language; (2) attributed the diversity of language, with its attendant train of evils (misunderstanding, discord, hostility, and war), to the punishment or curse inflicted upon an impious race by a Divine decree; (3) associated with Babylon, the most ancient centre of civilization and town-life, the insolent impiety of a generation that sought to scale Heaven; (4) recorded the impression produced on the minds of the early Hebrews by the sight of the towers, Ziggurats, or temples which rose in many towns of Assyria and Babylonia to an immense height, and of which the meaning was unknown to nomad tribesmen or to wayfaring foreigners.

the whole earth] i.e. the inhabitants of the whole earth, as in 10:25.

one language … one speech] An expressive phrase, denoting that the generations of primitive man, being of one stock, continued to speak one common language. The Jewish tradition, which was followed by Christian tradition, as represented by Patristic, mediaeval, and many modern writers, assumed that Hebrew was the primitive language. This, however, was an assumption resting on no more satisfactory foundation than (1) the proper names of the early Genesis narratives, and (2) the supposition that the language of the Chosen People was sacred and therefore aboriginal. The whole theory has been disproved by the scientific comparative study of languages, and of Hebrew and the cognate Semitic languages in particular.

as they journeyed] We are not told who are here spoken of, nor whence they come. This is an indication that this passage (1–9) is derived from an independent tradition distinct from the thread of the foregoing narrative. Like 4:17–24, and 6:1–4, it is probably a fragment of tradition which had no knowledge of the story of the Flood, or of the dispersion of the peoples through the sons of Noah.

journeyed] A word denoting the progress of nomads from one place of encampment to another.

east] Better, as marg., in the east. The Hebrew word means literally “from the east,” as also LXX ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, and Lat. de oriente, and here probably signifies “in the east,” i.e. on the east side from the writer’s point of view. Some translate “eastward,” as in 13:11, where Lot, on leaving Abram, is described as journeying “eastward.” But, as we do not know who are referred to, or where they started from, the uncertainty as to the rendering remains.

a plain in the land of Shinar] For Shinar, probably denoting the ancient Babylonia, “Sumer and Akkad,” see 10:10. The word “plain” (biḳ’ah) means the wide open expanse of a river valley. Here it is used of the Euphrates Valley. The expression, “found a plain in the land of Shinar,” does not suggest close knowledge of Babylonia; but rather the general terms of popular and defective information respecting a distant country. Babylonia is one vast plain.

brick for stone, &c.] For a description of building with bricks held together with bitumen in Babylonia, see Herodotus, i. 179. The writer here is evidently more familiar with building in stone and mortar than in brick and bitumen: another indication that the story is Israelite in origin.

slime] That is, bitumen, LXX ἄσφαλτος, Lat. bitumen. The Hebrew word ḥêmar is found here and in 14:10, Ex. 2:3. The word for bitumen or pitch used in 6:14 (kopher) resembles the Assyrian; and the fact that it is not used here tells for the Israelite character of the story.

a city, and a tower] The story seems to suggest that in the abandonment of tent for city life these primitive people were disobeying the Divine command.

whose top may reach unto heaven] Lit. “its top in heaven.”

Probably the words are intended quite literally to suggest the endeavour to “reach unto” Heaven, which was regarded as a solid vault. As the highest stage in an Assyrian or Babylonian pyramid, Ziggurat, was surmounted by a shrine of the deity, there is perhaps more meaning and less fancifulness in these words than has often been suspected.

It is natural to compare the later Greek legend of the giants who sought to scale Olympus and to dethrone Zeus. But there is no indication of warlike defiance.

The famous tower at Borsippa, on the left bank of the Euphrates, whose ruins now go by the name of Birs Nimrud, was a temple dedicated to Bel-Nebo, and rose in seven tiers or stages, representing the seven planets. This building, having fallen into ruins, was restored by Nebuchadnezzar. A similar building, E-sagil, dedicated to Bel Merodach, the patron god of the city, must have been one of the most enormous structures of ancient Babylon. The fame of temple towers or pyramids, Ziggurats, of this description was doubtless widely current throughout Western Asia, and may have given rise to strange legends concerning their erection in primitive times.

let us make us a name] i.e. make ourselves renowned. Cf. Isa. 63:12, “to make himself an everlasting name”; 2 Sam. 7:23, “to make him a name.” For the Heb. shêm = “name” in the sense of “renown,” cf. 6:4, “the men of renown”; Isai. 55:13, “it shall be to the Lord for a name.” Some scholars prefer to render shêm by “monument,” or “memorial,” as possibly in 2 Sam. 8:13. Old Jewish commentators thought it might refer to Shem, or even to the sacred Name of the Almighty!

lest we be scattered abroad] The tower was to be visible to the whole world, and make its builders famous for ever. The tower and the city would be a conspicuous place for purposes of concentration and defence. It was apparently (see v. 6) the Lord’s will that the people should scatter over the world. The people resolved upon a project which would frustrate the Divine purpose, gratify their own ambition, and protect them as far as possible against punishment. Distance and isolation meant danger.

And the lord came down to see] Not a figurative, poetical expression, as in Isai. 64:1, but a strong and naïve anthropomorphism. The early religious traditions of Israel represent the Almighty in terms which to our minds appear almost profane, but which in the infancy of religious thought presented ideas of the Deity in the simplest and most vivid manner. Here, as in 18:21, God is described as descending to the earth, in order to see what was not wholly visible to Him in the heavens.

And the Lord said] The account, in this and the following verse, is evidently condensed. In v. 5 Jehovah is represented as coming down on earth, in order to see more closely, and on the spot to form a better judgement. This He has done; He has returned to heaven, and now, in v. 6, announces what He has seen. In v. 7 He proposes to descend a second time and inflict punishment.

one people … one language] This is evidently contrary to the intention of the Deity who desires the whole earth to be populated.

nothing will be withholden from them] i.e. they will be baulked in no enterprise. If they mount up to heaven, their arrogance will make them endeavour to rival God Himself. It is the same kind of apprehension as in 3:22.

Go to, let us go down] For 1st pers. plur. see notes on 1:26, 3:5, 22. Jehovah is represented probably as enthroned above the heaven, and either as addressing the powers of heaven, “the sons of Elohim,” who attend Him and minister to Him (cf. Job 1:6), or as announcing His purpose in the deliberative 1st pers. plur.

scattered them abroad] The general result is stated; the means by which the sentence was carried out are not related. Josephus records a tradition that the Tower was overthrown by a mighty wind.

Therefore was the name of it called Babel] Babel is the regular Hebrew form of the name Babylon, see 10:10. The etymology here given is popular; cf. 16:14, 19:22 (J). Like most popular etymologies, it rests on a resemblance of sound, and has no claim to scientific accuracy. “Babel” is not a Hebrew name from balal = “to confound”; but very probably an Assyrian name meaning the “Gate of God,” Bab-ilu.

confound] Heb. balal = “to confound,” the same word as in v. 7. To the Hebrew the sound of the name Babel suggested “confusion.” “Babel” is regarded as a contraction from a form Balbêl (which does not exist in Hebrew, but occurs in Aramaic) = “Confusion”: so LXX Σύγχυσις. This derivation, so derogatory to the great Babylonian capital, could hardly have been drawn from any Babylonian source. The story (if, as in vv. 2, 3, 4, it shews acquaintance with Babylonia) has clearly come down to us through a channel which regarded Babylon as a foreigner and a foe.

10–26. The Genealogy of the Patriarchs from Shem to Abram. (P.)

This genealogical table is taken from P. It resembles the table in chap. 5 (1) in the manner of the enumeration of years, (a) at the birth of the firstborn, (b) at the patriarch’s death: (2) in the general length of the list, nine (or, including Cainan, ten) generations: (3) in the last name, Terah, being represented, like Noah, as the father of three sons.

The gradual diminution in the duration of life from Shem (600 years) and Arpachshad (438 years) to Nahor (148 years) should be noticed. See Special Note on the Longevity of the Patriarchs, p. 91 f.

The period from the Flood to the birth of Abram covers 290 years. In LXX the period is given as 1070, in the Samaritan text as 940. See Note on the Genealogy of Shem, p. 154.

The names Arpachshad, Shelah, Eber, and Peleg coincide with those in 10:22, 24, 25 (J).

These are the generations] The heading of a new section in P: see 2:4a.

Arpachshad] See note on 10:22, where Arpachshad is the third son of Shem. Possibly Babylonia, or a locality in it, was regarded as the primitive home of Abram’s ancestors.

after the flood] Shem (see 5:32 and 7:6) was a hundred years old when the Flood began.

five hundred years] According to this chronology Shem would have outlived Abram.

Shelah] LXX inserts “Cainan” before “Shelah”; and states that “Cainan lived 130 years, and begat Shelah, and lived after he begat Shelah 330 years.”

The additional name of Cainan equalizes the list of names with that in chap. 5. But it is also omitted in the parallel list of 1 Chron. 1:24. And it is suspicious that the figures are the same as those of Shelah (in the LXX).

Eber] See note on 10:24. Here, as in that passage, the context suggests that a name meaning “the other side” or “across,” is most naturally applicable to a country on the east side of the river Euphrates.

Peleg] See note on 10:25.

The geographer Kiepert compares a place Φαλιγά at the junction of the tributary Ḥabor with the river Euphrates.

Reu] Whether this is the name of a place or a tribe seems quite uncertain. Observe the sudden decline in the length of Peleg’s life, and in that of his descendants, as compared with his predecessors. In the approach to historic times the figures become more normal.

Serug] The name of a town and region near Haran in Mesopotamia in the land of the upper Euphrates.

Nahor] The name here of Abram’s grandfather, as also, in v. 26, of Abram’s brother (cf. 22:20, Jos. 24:2). Very similar personal names are found in early Assyrian business documents.

Terah] The father of Abram. The name has not yet been clearly identified with any locality, or tribe.

seventy years] The birth of Terah’s firstborn is postponed for a period twice as long as in the case of the other patriarchs since Shem. Shem was 100 years old when he begat Arpachshad (v. 10). This greater duration of time is connected with the features of faith and discipline attaching to the careers of the greater personages in the Israelite ancestry.

Abram] According to the Hebrew tradition, the name means “the father (ab) is exalted (ram).” It might also mean “Ram (= Ramman) is father.” Compare, in the one case, Jehoram (= Jah is exalted); in the other, Abijah (= Jah is father). See note on 17:5.

Nahor] See on v. 22.

Haran] This name has by some scholars been derived from the Heb. har = “a mountain,” and explained as meaning “Highlanders.” “Beth-haran” is the name of a town built by the “children of Gad” (Num. 32:36) and mentioned along with “Beth-Nimrah.” Possibly, therefore, Haran was also the name of a local deity.

27–32. The Sons of Terah. (J and P.)

Now these are, &c.] The story of Abram commences here with the heading of a section from P. Cf. 25:19, “And these are the generations of Isaac.”

Haran begat Lot] Lot the nephew of Abram, and the traditional ancestor of the peoples east of the Dead Sea. It is natural to suppose that the name has some affinity with that of “Lotan,” a Horite family or tribe (36:20, 29).

28. This and the following verse are taken from J, and commence the personal history of the patriarch.

Haran died] This may indicate a tradition that the hill people, or families who joined the main body of the Terahites, lost their separate existence and became completely merged in the house of Terah.

The grave of Haran was shewn in the days of Josephus (Ant. i. 151).

in the presence of his father] i.e. while his father Terah was still alive.

in the land of his nativity] To these words is appended the explanation, “in Ur of the Chaldees,” very possibly added as a gloss by a later hand, as in 15:7. Abram in 24:4, 7, 10 refers to Haran, or Aram naharaim, as the land of his nativity; and that region is generally treated as the home of the ancestors of the Israelites. It is clear, however, that, beside the tradition which ascribed the origin of Israel to Mesopotamia, there was also another which derived them ultimately from S. Babylonia. See v. 31.

Sarai] Abram’s wife was, according to 20:12, his half-sister, i.e. a daughter of Terah by another wife. Milcah, Nahor’s wife, is Nahor’s niece. Whether in these marriages we have to deal with the actual details of relationship permitted in nomadic life, or whether we have presented to us, under the imagery of matrimony, the fusion of families or tribes in the main community, is a question which we are not able through lack of evidence to answer. The blending of personal and tribal history produces a result, in which it is impossible to be sure of disentangling the separate elements.

“Sarai” is believed to be an archaic form of “Sarah” = “princess”: cf. 17:15.

The fact that Sarratu (= “princess”) was a title of the moon-goddess, consort of Sin, and Malkatu (= “queen”), a title of Istar, among the deities worshipped in Harran, raises questions with regard to the origin of the Hebrew proper names, Sarah and Milcah.

For Milcah cf. 22:20, 23; 24:15, 24, 47. “Iscah,” otherwise unknown: by some identified with Sarai; by others as Lot’s wife.

31, 32. The Migration of Terah to Haran, and his Death. (P.)

they went forth with them] The words, as they stand, are meaningless. The Syriac reads “and he went forth with them.” Better as LXX, Sam. and Lat. “and he brought them forth,” which only requires the omission of one letter. Another conjectural emendation is “and they went forth with him.”

No reason for the migration is here assigned. Later tradition attributed it to religious causes. Cf. Judith 5:6–9, “This people are descended of the Chaldeans. And they departed from the way of their parents, and worshipped the God of heaven, the God whom they knew: and they cast them out from the face of their gods, and they fled into Mesopotamia, and sojourned there many days. And their God commanded them to depart from the place where they sojourned.”

Ur of the Chaldees] Heb. Ur Kasdim. “Ur” is the Uru of the inscriptions denoting a town and region. The town is generally believed to have been discovered in the mounds of the modern El-Muḳayyar in S. Babylonia, on the right bank of the Euphrates, more than 100 miles S. E. of Babylon. It was the principal seat of the worship of the moon-god, Sin, in S. Babylonia. Its position enhanced its importance in early times. It stood on the main route between Arabia and Syria; and the river Euphrates in those days must have flowed close to its walls. “Kasdim” = “of the Chaldees,” has been added (evidently for purposes of distinction from other similar names), here and in v. 28, 15:7; Neh. 9:7; Judith 5:6. The Chaldeans, who dwelt in the south of Babylonia, became predominant in the 7th century b.c.; but their name does not appear in the inscriptions until long after the time of Abram.

‘Or being the Hebrew word for “light,” the rendering “in the fire of the Chaldees” (Jerome, Quaest., ad loc., in igne Chaldaeorum) gave rise to fantastic legends, which related how Haran perished in, and how Abram was ordered by Nimrod to be cast into, the furnace.

Haran] LXX Χαῤῥάν, Gr. Κάῤῥαι, Lat. Carrhae, where Crassus fell in battle with the Parthians. The name of a town distant 550 miles N., or N.W. from Ur; and one of the principal towns in Mesopotamia, situate on the left bank of the river Belikh, 70 miles N. from its confluence with the Euphrates on its eastern bank. The name is spelt differently from the Haran of vv. 26 and 27. It would be better to pronounce it “Ḥarran,” like the Assyrian Ḥarranu, meaning “a road.” The name implies its strategical importance as the converging point of the commercial routes from Babylon in the south, Nineveh in the east, and Damascus in the west.

Ḥarran, like Ur, was a centre of the worship of the moon-god, Sin. The two traditions, which derive Abram from Ur and from Haran, unite in connecting his home with a shrine of the moon-god, the one in Babylonia, the other in Mesopotamia.

The journey to Canaan from Ur would describe, by the ordinary caravan route, a great curve passing through Babylon N.W. to Ḥarran; thence 60 miles westward to Carchemish on the Euphrates; from Carchemish S.W. to Damascus, and from Damascus south into the land of Canaan. This curve is necessitated by the great desert which separates the river system of the Tigris and Euphrates from the hill country to the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan.

two hundred and five years] For this figure the Samaritan version gives 145, obviously in order to make the year of Abram’s departure from Haran (when Abram was 75 years old; see 12:4) coincide with the year of Terah’s death, since Abram was born (v. 26) in Terah’s 70th year. It is this tradition which is followed by Stephen, Acts 7:4.

Note on the Genealogy of Shem


Massoretic Text

Samaritan Text

Septuagint Text

Book of jubilees

1st Son



1st Son



1st Son



1st Son












    1.    Shem











    2.    Arpachshad






















    3.    Shelah











    4.    Eber











    5.    Peleg


















(L. 134)




    6.    Reu











    7.    Serug











    8.    Nahor



















(L. 125)



    9.    Terah





























(L. 1174)




From Flood to Birth of Abram











In this Table it is possible to follow the different chronologies of the Massoretic, Samaritan, and Septuagint Text (L = Lucian).

(a) The Samaritan Text (except in the case of Shem, Nahor, and Terah) adds 100 years to the ages at the birth of the firstborn: in the case of Nahor, it adds 50.

The Septuagint Text does the same.

(b) The Samaritan Text (except in the case of Shem, Eber, Nahor, and Terah) deducts 100 years from the ages subsequent to the birth of the firstborn; in the case of Eber it deducts 160 years; in the case of Nahor it deducts 50 years; in the case of Terah it deducts 60 years.

The Septuagint Text adds in the case of Arpachshad 27 years; and of Nahor 10 years; and deducts in the case of Shelah 73 years, and of Eber 60 years.

(c) In chap. 11 only nine generations are recorded, as against ten in chap. 5. The Septuagint, by inserting Cainan, secures the number ten.

(d) It will be noticed that the ages of the Shemite Patriarchs become greatly diminished in duration after Eber.

(e) The difficulty, occasioned by 11:32 (Terah’s death in Haran at the age of 205), and by 12:4 (Abram’s departure from Haran at the age of 75, when Terah was 145 years old (cf. 11:26)), is obviated in the Samaritan Text, according to which Terah died at the age of 145, the year of Abram’s departure.

Ch. 12:1–9. 1–4a (J); 4b, 5 (P). The First Promise: and the Migration of Abram into Canaan

This passage is from J, with the exception of 4b and 5 (P).

Now the lord said] Lit. “and Jehovah said.” The narrative opens with characteristic simplicity, and with the abruptness possibly indicating its selection from a group of similar traditions.

the lord said] Here, as elsewhere, we must not suppose that “the word of Jehovah” was accompanied either by any external manifestation, or by an audible sound. God in old times “hath spoken unto the fathers” even as He speaks now to those who hear His voice, “in divers manners” (Heb. 1:1).

out of thy country … kindred … father’s house] See 24:7. The threefold tie of land, people, and home, is to be severed. Abram is to lay the foundations of the Chosen People independently of any obligation or favour due to local environment or personal association. He is to rely only on his God. Thus the first trial of the patriarch’s faith requires him, (a) to renounce the certainties of the past: (b) to face the uncertainties of the future: (c) to look for and to follow the direction of Jehovah’s will. Cf. Heb. 11:8, “by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out … and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

the land that I will shew thee] The country is not designated by name: an additional test of faith.

2. The promise, (1) of national greatness, (2) of personal privilege, embraces a double relation, to the world and to the individual.

a great nation] This thought stands in the forefront. The personal aspect of the promise made to Abram is from the first merged in the thought of its historic influence throughout the ages.

I will bless thee] The experience of happiness in the personal relation to Jehovah is to be the pledge of the ultimate fulfilment of blessing to the world.

make thy name great] Contrast 11:4. The blessing of Abram, in its spiritual influence upon the world, will be of more enduring renown than any of the material forces of the world.

be thou a blessing] i.e. one who impersonates true felicity; cf. Zech. 8:13. Not a source, but a type, of blessing, to be pronounced upon others. The imperative expresses a consequence which is intended (Gesenius, Heb. Gr. § 110. 1) = “so that thou shalt be a blessing.” By a slight alteration of the pointing, Giesebrecht reads “and it (the name) shall be a blessing.” For the “curse” of the primaeval age (3:13, 4:11, 5:29, 9:25 (J)) is substituted the “blessing” of the Chosen Family.

and I will bless, &c.] The blessing which Abram receives from God is to be a source of good to his friends and of evil to his foes. Observe the delicacy with which the recipients of the blessing are expressed in the plural; but of the curse in the singular (“him that curseth will I curse”). It is assumed that his friends are numerous and his foes few.

curse] Cf. 27:29, “Cursed be every one that curseth thee.”

in thee shall all the families of the earth, &c.] These words can be understood in two ways, according as the verb is rendered (a) passively, (b) reflexively. (a) “On account of thee the whole world shall be blessed.” In Abram is impersonated a blessing that shall become universal. The directly Messianic application of this rendering is obvious. (b) “In thy name all the families of the earth will find the true formula of benediction.” The blessing of Abram shall pass into a universal proverb. All will regard it as the best object of human wishes to participate in the happiness of Abram. The rendering would then be, “shall bless themselves.” Cf. 48:20. This rendering is probably supported by 22:18, 26:4; Ps. 72:17. Like the alternative rendering, it admits of a Messianic application in the universal recognition of the place of Abram in the Divine scheme of Redemption.

In this passage, the thought which was faintly foreshadowed in the prediction of (1) the conflict between man and the power of evil in 3:15, and of (2) the privilege of the family of Shem in 9:26, becomes more definite in (3) the selection of the patriarchal family as the channel of universal blessing.

4b (P). and Abram was seventy and five years old] Comparing this statement with 11:26, we gather Abram left Haran when Terah was 145 years old. In 11:32, Terah lived to an age of 205. If so, he lived for 60 years after Abram’s departure. We should, however, naturally infer both from this verse, and from 11:32, that Terah died before Abram left Haran. We must conclude, either, that the text of the figures in 11:32 is erroneous, and should be 145; or, that Abram was born 60 years after Nahor and Haran (11:26); or, that divergent strata of tradition have been incorporated in the narrative.

The connexion of the ancestry of Israel with the Aramaeans is elsewhere indicated in chap. 24, 28:1–32:2, and Deut. 26:5.

substance] or goods. A characteristic word in P (cf. 13:6, 31:18, 36:7, 46:6).

souls] i.e. the slaves and retainers. The movement of Abram out of Haran was evidently on the scale of a large migration, such as was not infrequent among the nomad peoples of Western Asia.

into the land of Canaan] The journey from Haran to Canaan would entail (1) the crossing of the river Euphrates, (2) the traversing of Hamath and Syria, (3) the entrance into N. Palestine. On an ancient tradition that, on the way, Abram conquered Damascus, see Josephus who quotes Nicolaus of Damascus: “Abraham reigned in Damascus, having come with an army from the country beyond Babylon, called the land of the Chaldaeans.”

the place of Shechem] The word “place” is here probably used in the special sense of “sacred place” or “shrine,” as also possibly in 22:4, 28:11 and 16; Josh. 5:15; Jer. 7:12. It does not mean the “site” of what was afterwards known as Shechem.

Shechem (modern Nablus), one of the most ancient and important towns in the central hill country of Palestine, at the foot of Mt Gerizim, in a fair and fertile valley on the road leading northward from Bethel. For other passages in which Shechem plays an important part, cf. 34; Jud. 9; 1 Kings 12:25. On the meaning of Shechem=a “shoulder” or “ridge,” see note on 48:22.

unto the oak of Moreh] Better, as marg., terebinth. The terebinth, or turpentine tree, is said at a distance to resemble the oak, but botanically it is of a different species; it does not grow in clumps. It is found in the S. and E. of Palestine in warm and sheltered spots; it often attains very considerable dimensions.

Moreh] Cf. Deut. 11:30; Jud. 7:1. In all probability Moreh is not a proper name, but the participle of the verb meaning to “teach” or “instruct,” whence comes also the substantive Torah, “law” or “instruction.” Probably we have here an example of one of the sacred trees under which, in primitive times, a priest, or seer, gave oracles and returned answers to devout questioners. If so, this terebinth may have been the famous tree mentioned elsewhere in connexion with Shechem: cf. 35:4, Josh. 24:26, and perhaps Jud. 9:37. “The terebinth of Moreh” will then mean “The terebinth of the oracle, or of the soothsayer.”

And the Canaanite was then in the land] i.e. long before the conquest of Palestine. This clause reminds the reader, that the land promised to the seed of Abram was “then” in the possession of the Canaanites. It was not to be taken by merely encamping in it. Perhaps, also, the clause refers to the sacred tree. Abram recognized the sanctity of the spot in the old religious customs of the Canaanites; and here Jehovah manifested Himself. As the Canaanite was to yield to Israel, so the Canaanite religion was to make way for a higher Revelation. The reverence and awe of the unseen Deity were not to be banished, but to be purified and elevated for a higher worship.

And the Lord appeared] The first mention of a Theophany in the patriarchal narrative. What form it took, and in what way it was connected with the “sacred tree” or the altar, is not related.

Unto thy seed will I give this land] The continuance of the Divine promise. In vv. 2 and 3 we had the blessing of the people and the patriarch, in general terms. In this verse, immediately after the mention of the Canaanite occupation, possession of “this land” is promised to the descendants of Abram. This verse lays the foundation of the imperishable devotion of “the seed of Abram” to the Land of Promise.

builded he an altar] Cf. 8:20. The building of an altar which implies the rite of sacrifice is mentioned in connexion with the promises and appearances of God, cf. 8, 13:18, 33:20, 35:1, 7.

Sacrifice was the expression of the patriarch’s dependence on, communion with, and devotion to, Jehovah.

Beth-el on the west, and Ai on the east] For Bethel, see note on 28:12. For Ai, see Josh. 7:2–5. The situation of Abram’s tent between Bethel and Ai must have commanded a view of the valley of the Jordan and of the Dead Sea, with the mountains of Moab. “Beth-el,” or “House of God,” was probably also an ancient shrine, the modern Bêtîn, 9½ miles N. of Jerusalem.

on the west] The Heb. word for “the west” means literally “the sea,” i.e. the Mediterranean Sea. Such an expression for a point of the compass could only have been used by a people who had long been resident in the country.

called upon the name] See note on 4:26, i.e. he worshipped, using in his invocation the name “Jehovah.” The Name is the symbol of the Divine attributes.

toward the South] Heb. Negeb, the southern tract of Judah. Negeb means “the dry land,” “the land of thin soil.” It was applied especially to the country in the southernmost region of Canaan, described in Josh. 15:21–32, and spoken of in Num. 13:17, 22, 26. The Israelite, dwelling in Palestine, was accustomed to speak of the south as the “negeb” quarter, just as he spoke of the west as the “sea” quarter, of the compass. The R.V. prints the word “South” with a capital, when it denotes the region between Hebron and the wilderness. It is found in the form Ngb in an Egyptian writing of the reign of Thothmes III (1479–1447 b.c.) as a name for S. Palestine (Müller’s Asien u. Europa, p. 148).

12:10–13:2. Abram in Egypt. (J.)

The narrative in this section should be compared with the similar ones in 20, 26. It is repellent to our sense of honour, chivalry, and purity. It is true that Abram’s cowardice is reproved, and that the action of the Egyptian Pharaoh is represented in a more favourable light. On the other hand, Abram, though dismissed from the court, leaves Egypt enriched with great spoil. By a subterfuge he had hoped to save his own life at the cost of his wife’s honour. His cowardly deceit is detected: and his life is not imperilled. Sarai’s honour is spared; and the patriarch withdraws immensely enriched in possessions. This story, doubtless, would not have appeared so sordid to the ancient Israelite as it does to us. Perhaps the cunning, the detection, and the increase of wealth, may have commended the story to the Israelite of old times. Its popularity must account for its re-appearance in 20, 26.

It would be gratifying, if, in this story and in its variants, we were warranted in recognizing under an allegorical form the peril, to which nomad tribes of the Hebrew stock were exposed, of being absorbed among the inhabitants of a civilized community. Such a tribal misadventure might well be commemorated under the imagery of such a story. It is more probable, however, that the story illustrates the Divine protection over the patriarch amid the dangers of a foreign country. God’s goodness, not Abram’s merit, averts the peril.

In the present sequence of patriarchal narratives, this section shews how the fulfilment of the Divine promise is first imperilled through the patriarch’s own failure in courage and faith. The very qualities for which he is renowned, are lacking in the hour of temptation. God’s goodness and grace alone rescue him and his wife. A heathen king of Egypt upholds the universal law of virtue more successfully than the servant of Jehovah. The story reveals that Jehovah causes His will to be felt in Egypt no less than in Palestine. But the moral of the story does not satisfy any Christian standard in its representation either of Jehovah or of the patriarch. The knowledge of God is progressive.

a famine in the land] Cf. 26:1, 42:1. The failure of crops in Palestine and the adjacent countries, owing to defective rainfall, often compelled the inhabitants to “go down” into Egypt, where the crops were not dependent on rainfall. They were wont to “sojourn” (i.e. to reside temporarily) there, until the scarcity was passed.

thou art a fair woman] According to 17:17 (P), Sarai was 10 years younger than Abram; and from 12:4 (P) Abram was at least 75 when he entered Egypt, and Sarai, therefore, 65. This kind of difficulty has led to explanations of a somewhat undignified character. The true explanation is that the ages of the patriarchs which belong to the brief and statistical narrative of P have no place in the narrative of J, in which Sarai is beautiful and childless (11:30).

my sister] i.e. half-sister. Cf. 11:29, 20:12.

my soul] A vivid way of expressing the personal pronoun, cf. 27:4, 19, 25.

the princes of Pharaoh] i.e. the chief officers at the court of the king of Egypt. Pharaoh is not a proper name, but the title of the Egyptian king. It is the Hebrew way of transliterating the Egyptian royal title Per’o, “the Great House,” which was transferred from the dwelling to the dynasty of the sovereign. It is often compared with “the Sublime Porte.” As the king’s title, it is no more distinctive than “King,” or “Tsar,” or “Sultan.” There is nothing in this passage to shew which Egyptian king is intended, or at what place he held his court. If Abram was a contemporary of Hammurabi (see note on 14), the Pharaoh of this chapter may have belonged to the 12th or 13th dynasty of Egypt.

All kings of Egypt mentioned in the O.T. (except Shishak, 1 Kings 14:25, and So, 2 Kings 17:4) are designated Pharaoh.

into Pharaoh’s house] i.e. into the harem, or women’s quarter of the king’s palace. The verse illustrates the manner in which the courtiers of an Eastern monarch sought to win royal favour by recommending to his notice beautiful women who might be added to his harem. Cf. the story of the Book of Esther.

The story is much abbreviated: but it is implied that Sarai consented to sacrifice her honour for her husband’s life. We must remember that in the ethics of the O.T. woman is regarded in a less honourable light than man. The idea of a man sacrificing himself to save a woman’s honour belongs almost entirely to the Christian age.

entreated] Old Eng. word for “treated,” or “used.” The manner in which Abram received and retained these extensive gifts implies his consent to Sarai’s position at the court. Abram’s acceptance of the purchase-money was his ratification of the transaction. If it struck the Hebrew mind as clever, it seems to us only base and despicable.

sheep, and oxen, &c.] This list represents the principal possessions of a nomad chieftain. The following points should be noticed: (a) men-servants and maidservants (i.e. male and female slaves) are placed between the animals, either by mistake of a copyist, or being regarded as the chattels of the household, cf. 24:35; (b) the mention of camels has been criticized as an anachronism, because the camel is not represented in the Egyptian inscriptions before the Persian period. But, whether used or not by the ancient Egyptians, the camel was certainly employed both by traders and nomads in Western Asia, and in the tradition, whether correctly or not, would be considered to be obtainable; (c) the horse is omitted; and the omission has been considered a sign of ignorance of Egyptian life. But the horse never appears among the possessions of the patriarchs, e.g. 24:35, 30:43, and its use is condemned in Deut. 17:16; (d) the order of the items in the list may possibly denote their relative values, the camel being the most precious.

plagued … with great plagues] The words in the original run: “and Jehovah struck Pharaoh with great strokes, and his house.” The words “and his house” have all the appearance of being a later explanatory addition. The “great strokes” or “plagues” must have been some kind of epidemic (cf. 20:17; 1 Chron. 16:21; Ps. 105:14), the cause of which could not be understood. Pharaoh and his house are guiltless; Abram and Sarai are deceitful and cowardly; Jehovah smites the Egyptian, in order to protect the patriarch and his wife. This representation of the Deity illustrates the immature stage of religious development presented by some of the early Israelite traditions.

Pharaoh called Abram] How Pharaoh discovered the truth is not recorded in our condensed version. All other explanations of the epidemic failing, possibly the wise men and magicians connected it with the presence of a foreigner in the palace serving Jehovah, and with the indignation of the offended local deities.

take her, and go thy way] Pharaoh, justly incensed with Abram, dismisses him with sternness and abruptness.

they brought him on the way] i.e. they escorted him to the frontier, treating with respect and honour a man of wealth and substance, and a foreigner whose God had been a protection to himself and a peril to the Egyptian royal family. Abram apparently retained the wealth that he had procured on false pretences. For the word rendered “bring on the way,” in the sense of “escort,” cf. 18:16, 31:27 (“sent away”).

On this narrative, see the remarks of J. G. Frazer in Psyche’s Task, p. 40, “among many savage races breaches of the marriage laws are believed to draw down on the community public calamities of the most serious character … in particular they are thought to blast the fruits of the earth through excessive rain or excessive drought. Traces of similar beliefs may perhaps be detected among the civilised races of antiquity.” Frazer quotes, in illustration, Job 31:11 sq., and the two narratives of Gen. 12:10–20 and 20:1–18. “These narratives,” he says, “seem to imply that adultery, even when it is committed in ignorance, is a cause of plague and especially of sterility among women.”

Ch. 13. The Separation of Abram and Lot. (J; P, vv. 6, 11b, 12a.)

went up out of Egypt] Cf. 12:10, “went down into Egypt.” Egypt is always regarded as the low-lying country; and Palestine as the high ground.

Lot with him] Lot was not mentioned in the previous chapter, but it is here implied that Lot had been with Abram in Egypt.

into the South] i.e. into the Negeb: see note on 12:9. This is a good illustration of the meaning of Negeb. Abram’s journey from Egypt into the Negeb was by a route leading N.E. The English reader, not understanding the technical meaning of “the South,” might suppose that Abram’s journey from Egypt into “the South” would have led in the direction of the Soudan.

cattle … silver … gold] Abram’s wealth described in an ascending scale of value. Cf. 12:16, 24:35.

on his journeys] i.e. by successive encampments.

the place … his tent] See 12:8; to which passage also the phrases “at the beginning,” and “at the first” (vv. 3, 4) refer.

And Lot also] This verse, describing the wealth of Lot, is intended, with v. 2, to prepare for the account of the separation of Abram from Lot. Lot’s wealth consists only of flocks and herds and tents.

And the land, &c.] The account, according to P, of the reason for Lot’s separation. The flocks and herds of the two chieftains when combined were so numerous, that there was not pasturage enough to feed them. Cf. a similar reason, in P’s narrative, for the separation of Jacob and Esau, 36:7. The word “substance” is characteristic of P. Cf. 12:5.

And there was a strife] The account according to J of the reason for the separation. Disputes were constantly arising between the herdsmen of the two caravans. For other examples of such causes of friction among shepherds and herdsmen, see 21:24–32, 26:15–33.

and the Canaanite and the Perizzite] Cf. 12:6. The introduction of this clause is probably intended to emphasize the danger of dissensions between the Hebrew camps at a time when the native inhabitants, jealous of the wealth of the strangers, might be glad of a pretext for attacking them singly. “The Canaanite” is the indigenous inhabitant (10:15, 19, 12:6) in J.

The Perizzite is mentioned with the Canaanite in 34:30, Jud. 1:4, 5, and in the lists of the nations, e.g. 15:20, 21. In Josh. 17:15 the Perizzites are named with the Rephaim; and in Josh. 24:11 with the Amorites. There is no means of determining where they dwelt. Some have supposed that the Perizzites meant the peasantry, or dwellers in villages and unwalled towns, as distinct from the Canaanites who dwelt in walled cities: and that the name is connected with the word perazi, used in Deut. 3:5 and 1 Sam. 6:18.

for we are brethren] i.e. kinsmen; Abram being Lot’s uncle. Cf. 14:14, “and when Abram heard that his brother (i.e. Lot) was taken captive.”

Abram, as the elder, takes the lead in the conference: his proposal is made with generosity and dignity. Lot, though the younger, is to have his choice.

the whole land, &c.] Abram’s offer is made with the elaborate profuseness and courtesy characteristic of an Oriental bargain: cf. 23:11–16; 2 Sam. 24:21–24.

And Lot lifted up his eyes] The spot near Bethel, from which the view described in this verse can be obtained, is easily identified. Travellers speak in glowing terms of the scene commanded by this piece of high ground.

all the Plain (R.V. marg. Circle) of Jordan] The word kikkar, a “round,” or “circle” (Skinner renders “Oval”), was applied by the Israelites to the broader portion of the level country on either side of the river Jordan, extending northwards as far as the river Jabbok, and southwards, originally, according to the tradition, to the supposed site of the submerged cities of the Plain at the lower end of the Dead Sea. Cf. 19:24–29; 2 Sam. 18:23; 1 Kings 7:46. The kikkar is specially mentioned in connexion with Jericho in Deut. 34:3; Neh. 3:22, 12:28. The present passage suggests, that the narrative emanated from a source, according to which the formation of the Dead Sea was subsequent to the destruction of the cities of the Plain (19), and that its bed had previously been a fertile agricultural region.

well watered] The basin of the Jordan is famous for its fertility. The climate is tropical, and the soil is watered by the Jordan and its tributaries.

before the Lord destroyed, &c.] The writer pictures this scene of fertility extending itself to the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, before the catastrophe described in 19:24–29.

like the garden of the Lord] “The garden of Jehovah” is the garden of Eden (chap. 2; cf. Isai. 51:3), the ideal of beauty and fertility. “Like the land of Egypt”; the writer adds a second simile. “The land of Egypt” was well known for the richness of its soil and for the abundance of its irrigation. The two similes, following in succession, have been thought to overload the sentence, but are not, on that account, to be regarded as glosses.

as thou goest unto Zoar] Zoar, a town situated probably in the S. E. of the Dead Sea (cf. 19:22): and hence this clause, as it stands, must be connected with “the Plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where,” the intervening clauses being parenthetical.

Another reading, “Zoan,” found in the Syriac Peshitto, would connect the clause with the mention of Egypt, by specifying the fertile district of the famous city of Tanis on the east of the Nile Delta.

So Lot chose] This verse points onward both to the catastrophe in 19 and to the dwelling-place of the Moabites and Ammonites. Lot’s selection (a) disregarded the rights of Abram his senior; (b) was based on the material attractions of the country; (c) ignored the characteristics of the people of the land (v. 13). Its importance lay in its symbolical resignation of any claim upon the land of Palestine by the Moabites and Ammonites.

and Lot journeyed east] This is the account according to J. The next two clauses are from P: they repeat the same thought and interrupt the sentence. The words in v. 12 “and moved his tent as far as Sodom” continue the sentence “journeyed east,” and follow very awkwardly after the words “dwelled in the cities of the Plain.” This is a rare instance of unskilful combination of the two strata of tradition.

13 (J). the men of Sodom] The mention of the wickedness of the people is here emphasized in reference to (a) the selfish choice of Lot (v. 11); (b) the coming story of the overthrow of the cities of the Plain (19); (c) the immediate assurance to Abram of Jehovah’s blessing outweighing all earthly privileges.

sinners against the Lord] i.e. by immorality, not idolatry. Jehovah’s supremacy over the heathen world is here implied, as in 12:10–20 in connexion with Egypt, and in 10:10 in the mention of Nimrod.

14–17 (J). The promise of the land to Abram and his seed (12:7) is renewed with more minute description, (a) as to the extent of the country (vv. 14, 15); (b) as to the infinite number of his descendants (v. 16).

northward and southward, &c.] The promise here includes, in the future possession of Israel, the land which Lot had chosen for himself.

to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever] The gift to Abram is one of promise and prediction. The gift to his “seed” was to be fulfilled in history. If the words “for ever” are to have their fullest meaning, the land is a pledge symbolic of God’s mercy and goodness towards the people. Their expansion and discipline will be in Palestine. The land and the people will be identified.

as the dust of the earth] For this simile cf. 28:14, which is also from J. Abram’s descendants are elsewhere compared in number to the stars, 15:5, 22:17, 26:4; and to the sand which is upon the seashore, 22:17, 32:12.

Arise, walk] Abram is told to go up and down in the land of promise, and thus to view by faith the possession which his descendants will connect with the promise made to him.

the oaks of Mamre] Better, as R.V. marg., terebinths. Cf. 14:13, 18:1. Probably the sacred trees of the Canaanite sanctuary at Hebron. Josephus (Ant. i. x. § 4 and B.J. iv. ix. § 7) mentions the oak tree (δρύς) of Hebron. The so-called oak of Abraham, 3 miles N.W. of Hebron, was shattered by a storm in the winter of 1888–9. The tree was said to be six or seven hundred years old. In 14:24 Mamre is the name of a local chieftain allied with Abram. Here, and in 23:17, 19, 25:9, 49:30, 50:13, it is the name of a place near Hebron.

in Hebron] The famous city of Judah; cf. 23:2. From its connexion with Abram it derives its modern name El Ḥalil, “the friend,” an abbreviation of Ḥalil er-raḥman, “the friend of the Merciful One, i.e. God,” the designation of Abram. Cf. Isa. 41:8; Jas. 2:23. It stands 3000 ft. above the sea, at the junction of the main roads, from Gaza in the W., from Egypt in the S.W., from the Red Sea on the S.E., and from Jerusalem, 19 miles away, on the N.

Ch. 14. (origin uncertain)

1–12.    I.    The campaign of Chedorlaomer King of Elam and three vassal kings against the five rebellious kings of the Plain, who are defeated and their cities looted; Lot made prisoner.

13–16.    II.    Abram’s victorious pursuit of Chedorlaomer and rescue of Lot.

17–24.    III.    Abram, the King of Sodom, and Melchizedek.

This chapter presents us with the picture of Abram in the character of a warrior—vigorous, resourceful, successful, and magnanimous. On the historical background of the narrative, see the Special Note. The story is somewhat abruptly introduced. The mention of Lot who is dwelling in Sodom forms the chief point of contact with the previous narrative. There are numerous features in the account which seem to indicate its derivation from an entirely distinct source of tradition.


photo Mansell & Co.

Khammurabi (? Amraphel), King of Babylon, receiving laws from Shamash, the Sun-god.

1–12. The Campaign

And it came to pass in the days of] The opening formula of a new Hebrew section. Cf. Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam. 21:1; Esther 1:1; Isa. 7:1.

Amraphel] King of Shinar, very generally accepted as the Hebrew reproduction of the name Hammurabi, king of Babylonia about 2150 b.c. (?). On the assumption of this identification it has been conjectured that the last syllable of the name should be “-i” instead of “-el,” i.e. Amraphi. For Shinar, see note on 10:10 and 11:2.

Hammurabi is famous as the king who finally freed his kingdom from the yoke of the Elamites, who united northern and southern Babylonia under one rule, and extended his conquests as far west as Palestine. Many cuneiform documents, belonging to his reign and referring to his government, have been discovered and deciphered, most remarkable and important of all being his Code of Laws.

Arioch king of Ellasar] Possibly the same as Rim-sin who is said to be referred to in an ancient Sumerian record as Eri-Aku, son of Kudur-Mabug, king of Larsa, and a contemporary of Hammurabi. Ellasar is clearly the Babylonian town Larsa, which is identified with the ruins of the modern Senkereh on the E. bank of the Euphrates in S. Babylonia.

We meet with the name of Arioch in a Babylonian court-official (Dan. 2:15); and as a “king of the Elymaeans,” a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar (Judith 1:6).

Chedorlaomer] King of Elam. The name has not hitherto been identified in the history of Western Asia. In its formation, however, it is genuinely Elamite, i.e. Kudur = “servant,” and Lagamar = an Elamite deity. The supremacy of Elam over all that region of Western Asia about the time of Hammurabi is attested by the ancient documents. For Elam, see note on 10:22. It is the country called in the Assyrian Elamtu, and in the Greek Elymais, north of the Persian Gulf and east of the Lower Tigris. Its capital was Susa, which appears in the classical form of Susiana. On the overthrow of Elam by the Persians, see Jer. 49:34–39.

Tidal king of Goiim] The attempts which have been made to identify Tidal have not yet been successful. But there is no reason to suppose that it is a fictitious name; and future research may bring his name to light. Goiim is the regular Hebrew word for “nations,” and therefore seems to be very improbable as the name of a country or city. It may have been substituted by a Hebrew copyist for some unfamiliar proper name resembling it in pronunciation, or in shape of letters. Thus Sir Henry Rawlinson’s conjecture of Gutim has very generally found favour. The Guti were a people often mentioned in the inscriptions, living in the region of Kurdistan. Sayce suggests that Goiim may be correct as the Hebrew translation of the Assyrian Ummanmanda, the peoples, or nomad hordes, that constantly swept through those regions.

that they made war] This anticipates and summarizes the contents of vv. 5–10. As Hammurabi, the conqueror of Elam and founder of the Babylonian kingdom, terms himself king of Amurru = Amorites, or northern Palestine, there is nothing unhistorical in the representation of an invasion of this region by the Elamite suzerain.

Bera … Birsha] The kings of the cities of the Plain mentioned in this verse are not otherwise known. Identifications with the Arabic Bari and Birshi, and with the Babylonian Sinabu, have been conjectured. The five cities here named, sometimes (e.g. Wisd. 10:6) called the Pentapolis, were, according to the tradition, situated at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and, with the exception of Zoar, were overwhelmed in the catastrophe of chap. 19. Each city has its king, as was the case with the cities of Canaan, according to the Book of Joshua and the Tel-el-Amarna tablets.

It is noteworthy that Bera and Birsha can, in the Hebrew letters, denote “with evil” and “with wickedness” respectively.

The LXX (Cod. A) reads “Balla” for “Bera,” and “Sennaar” for “Shinab.”

Admah, and … Zeboiim] These towns are mentioned in Deut. 29:23 and Hosea 11:8 as having been overthrown in the great catastrophe described in chap. 19.

the king of Bela] The only king whose name is not given. The omission favours the accuracy of the list. The name “Bela,” meaning “destruction,” conceivably contains a local allusion. It has been suggested that we should read “Bela, king of Zoar.” The reader, in reviewing these two verses, will be struck with the fact that Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, whose name is mentioned first in the list of v. 9, and who is evidently the supreme sovereign in vv. 4 and 5, stands third in the list in v. 1. It is not easy to find an explanation. Some scholars suggest that the names are arranged in the order of their nearness to Palestine! Others, by a slight emendation of the text, reading the final “1” in “Amraphel” as a preposition, render as follows: “in the days of Amraph, when Arioch king of Ellasar was king over Shinar, then Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim made war with, &c.” But the mention of the four kings in v. 9, where their order is different, does not favour the conjecture.

A relief on the upper part of the basalt stele on which is inscribed in cuneiform characters the famous Code of Laws.

All these] Probably the kings mentioned in v. 2, i.e. the five local subject princes. That there should be any doubt whether “all these” refers to the four kings of the east, or to the five kings of the west, is an example of the unskilful style in which this section is written.

joined together] The five local kings combined: “the vale of Siddim” was their rallying place. But as “the vale of Siddim” was their own country, the wording is awkward. Hence some prefer R.V. marg. “joined themselves together against,” with a change of subject; i.e. the kings of the E. combined and marched against the kings of the W. But the change of subject, interrupting vv. 2 and 4, is surely too harsh.

the vale of Siddim] Not mentioned elsewhere; but traditionally identified with the Dead Sea, beneath whose waters the “cities of the Plain” were believed by the Israelites to lie engulfed. The suggestion of Renan to read Shêdim (“demons”), a word occurring in Deut. 32:17, Ps. 106:37, is ingenious, but lacks support from any other passage mentioning the Dead Sea. LXX τὴν φάραγγα τὴν ἁλυκήν = “the salt valley,” Lat. vallem silvestrem.

the Salt Sea] An explanatory note, like the reference to Zoar, in the previous verse. “The Salt Sea” is the commonest name in the O.T. for “the Dead Sea”: e.g. Num. 34:3, 12; Josh. 15:2, 5. Another name by which it is called is “the sea of the Arabah,” Deut. 3:17, Josh. 3:16, 12:3, where “the Salt Sea” is added as an explanation. In Ezek. 47:18, Joel 2:20, it is called “the eastern sea.” Josephus calls it “the sea of Asphalt”; and in the Jewish Talmud it appears as “the sea of Sodom,” or “the salt sea.” The intense saltness of its waters and its deposits of salt have given rise to its name. Nothing lives in its waters. The name “Dead Sea” goes back to the time of Jerome, 6th cent. a.d.

they served] The five kings “served,” i.e. were vassals, and paid tribute to, the king of Elam who was their over-lord.

rebelled] Probably by omitting to pay tribute or to send gifts, as they had done for 12 years. The distance from southern Palestine to Elam was great. The five kings were doubtless petty princes, who took part in a wide-spread rebellion. Perhaps they took advantage of the decline of the power of Elam, and of the growth of the power of Babylonia. This is a justifiable conjecture if “Amraphel” be the same as Hammurabi. For Hammurabi threw off the yoke of Elam, united Babylonia, and founded the Dynasty of Babylon.

Compare the description in 2 Kings 24:1, “Jehoiakim became his [Nebuchadnezzar’s] servant three years; then he turned, and rebelled against him.”

came Chedorlaomer] The king of Elam was strong enough to deal vigorously with the rebellion in his western dependencies. This and the two following verses describe the punitive expedition, with which Chedorlaomer and his vassal kings crushed the rebellion. Whether the kings led their forces in person, we are not able to say for certain. The description leaves it to be inferred. The Oriental style of chronicle identified successful generals with the name of the king who sent them on their campaign.

The march of the punitive expedition must have been across the Euphrates at Carchemish, and then southward past Damascus. It overthrew the Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, and Horites who, apparently, were peoples on the east side of Jordan, involved in the rebellion. The southernmost point of the march was reached at the head of the Gulf of Akabah. As it commanded an important trade route, it may have formed the chief objective of the march. Returning from that point, the expedition struck at the Amalekites in the wilderness to the south of Palestine, and then attacked the joint forces of the five cities of the Plain and overthrew them in the valley of Siddim.

the Rephaim] or “sons of the Rapha.” The name given to the aborigines of Canaan, giant survivors of whom are mentioned in 2 Sam. 21:16–22. The name is specially applied, in Deut. 3:11, to Og, the king of Bashan, whose territory corresponded with the country spoken of in this verse.

Ashteroth-karnaim] Generally identified with Tell-‘Ashtara, in the plateau of Bashan, about 20 miles east of the sea of Galilee. Karnaim means “the two horns”; and the full name will therefore probably mean “the two-horned Astarte,” who, as the Goddess of the Moon, was represented with two horns. “Astarte of horns was that immemorial fortress and sanctuary which lay out upon the great plateau of Bashan towards Damascus; so obvious and cardinal a site that it appears in the sacred history both in the earliest recorded campaign in Abraham’s time and in one of the latest under the Maccabees. Gen. 14:5; 1 Macc. 5:26, 43” (G. Adam Smith, The Twelve Prophets, vol. i. p. 176.)

the Zuzim] Possibly the same as “the Zamzummim,” mentioned in Deut. 2:20 as the aborigines who were dispossessed by the Ammonites.

in Ham] Ham has been conjecturally identified with the old name of the Ammonite capital, mentioned in 2 Sam. 12:26, Rabbath Ammon.

the Emim] Mentioned in Deut. 2:10 as the name of the aborigines, “a people great and many and tall, as the Anakim,” dispossessed by the Moabites. The name means probably “the terrible ones.”

in Shaveh-kiriathaim] or the plain of Kiriathaim. In Num. 32:37 and Josh. 13:19 Kiriathaim is a town in Reuben: in Jer. 48:23 in Moab. It is generally identified with Kureyat, about 10 miles east of the Dead Sea and north of the river Arnon.

the Horites] Mentioned also in 36:20, 21, 30, and in Deut. 2:12, 22, where they are described as having been dispossessed of the country of Seir, the hill country between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Elath, by the Edomites. They have been thought to represent primitive “cave-dwellers,” of whom traces have been discovered by Macalister at Gezer.

unto El-paran] Generally identified with the town of Elath, the well-known port at the head of the Gulf of Akabah; which is sometimes called the “Aelanitic Gulf” from the name Ailana given to Elath in classical writings. The town may have derived its name from great palm trees in the neighbourhood (El = “a great tree”).

the wilderness] The Wilderness of Paran (cf. 21:21) between the Gulf of Akabah and the borders of Egypt.

En-mishpat] i.e. “the Spring of Judgement.” A spring of water at which there would be a sanctuary, whose priest gave oracles and decided disputes; known in the Israelite history as “Kadesh-barnea,” or, as here, “Kadesh.” It has been identified in| modern times with a spring and oasis, called Ain-Kadish, in the desert to the south of Beer-sheba. This was the spot at which the Israelite tribes concentrated after quitting the neighbourhood of Sinai: cf. Num. 21:16; Deut. 1:46.

the country] Heb. field; LXX and Syr. “princes of” (reading sârê for s’dêh).

the Amalekites] The nomad peoples of the desert who opposed the Israelite march (Ex. 17); and were overthrown by Saul (1 Sam. 15) in the wilderness south of Canaan.

the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazazon-tamar] The Canaanite people dwelling at Engedi (see 2 Chron. 20:2) among the rocks on the west shore of the Dead Sea. It has also been conjecturally identified with the Tamar of Ezek. 47:19, 48:28, a town on the S.W. of the Dead Sea. The name Hazazon-tamar has been explained to mean “the cutting of palms.” The name has been thought to be preserved in the Wady Hasasa, not far from Ain-gidi.

four kings against the five] After v. 8 we should expect the “five kings against the four.” Notice the impressive repetition of the names of the kings, and the variation in the order of the names or the eastern kings, Chedorlaomer coming first, as the over-lord against whom the rebellion had been made.

The description of the battle itself has most unfortunately not been preserved.

full of slime pits] i.e. bitumen pits. Bitumen, or asphalt, is found in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. Josephus speaks of the bitumen floating upon the surface of its waters. Here we are to suppose that the bitumen came out of large holes or pits in the earth, into which the confederates fell in their flight.

“Full of slime pits.” The Hebrew idiom gives be’erôth be’erôth ḥêmar, “pits, pits of bitumen” = “all bitumen pits.” Cf. 2 Kings 3:16, “trenches, trenches” = “nothing but trenches.”

The narrative is so fragmentary, or condensed, that only the rout is recorded.

they fell] Referring to the fugitive troops generally. The king of Sodom appears again in v. 17. It is implied that those who fell into the pits were lost.

to the mountain] i.e. to the mountains of Moab, the chain of hills on the east side of the Dead Sea.

they took] The subject is abruptly transferred to the victorious army. The account of the fall of the towns is omitted.

Sodom and Gomorrah] Mentioned perhaps as the chief towns; the three others are passed over in silence. The victorious troops did not wait; but after inflicting punishment hurried off, like a predatory horde, with their booty.

Lot, Abram’s brother’s son] Notice this minute description of Lot and the mention of his residence in Sodom, as if chap. 13 had not immediately preceded. In vv. 14 and 16, Lot is spoken of as Abram’s brother.

13–16. Abram’s Victory

Abram the Hebrew] Abram is described, as Lot in the previous verse, as if mentioned for the first time: an indication of the independent origin of the narrative.

The name “Hebrew” here occurs for the first time in Scripture. It is a title used of Israelites, either by foreigners, or in speaking of them to foreigners, or in contrast with foreigners. The word was popularly explained as a patronymic meaning “descendant of Eber,” see notes on 10:24, 11:14. Its formation, from the root ‘br, suggests that it means “one who has come from the other side,” probably, of the river Euphrates, cf. Josh. 24:2. The LXX renders here ὁ περάτης, Lat. transeuphratensis.

It is sometimes claimed that the name is identical with that of the Ḥabiri, a nomad, restless people, mentioned in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets as making war upon the Canaanite towns and communities (circ. 1400). The name Ḥabiri is akin to Hebron, and may denote “the confederates.” The identification of ‘Ibri = “Hebrew” with Ḥabiri would require a change of the first consonant, and an alteration of root meaning.

the oaks of Mamre] Better, terebinths. See note on 13:18. Mamre, though probably the name of a place, is here personified in its occupant. But there is no indication in 13:18 that “the oaks of Mamre” were called by the name of a local chieftain.

Eshcol] The well-known name, meaning “a bunch of grapes,” given to a valley near Hebron (cf. Num. 13:23), is here transferred to a person.

Aner] has not been identified as a place near Hebron, but appears as the name of a town in 1 Chron. 6:70.

confederate with Abram] Lit. “lords of the covenant of Abram,” i.e. allies with him by mutual compact, like Abimelech the Philistine, 21:22, 23, 32, 26:28–31.

And when Abram heard] It is implied that, if Lot had not been taken prisoner, Abram would not have stirred either to attack the invader or to assist the native kings. But, as a dweller at Hebron, he was within sight of “the land of the Plain,” cf. 19:28; and must have been well aware of Chedorlaomer’s punitive expedition against the kings of the Plain.

his brother] i.e. kinsman: see note on 13:8.

led forth] Lit. “emptied out,” or “unsheathed,” used of arrows from a quiver, or of a sword from a sheath. Driver gives the meaning “drew out rapidly and in full numbers.” The LXX ἠρίθμησεν, “counted” or “mustered,” Lat. numeravit, following probably a reading which is also found in the Samaritan version.

his trained men, born in his house] i.e. his most faithful retainers, the slaves (a) born in his household, as distinguished from those obtained by purchase; (b) specially exercised in the use of arms.

three hundred and eighteen] This exact figure seems strange. The old Jewish commentators explained it by pointing out that the numerical value of the Heb. letters of the name “Eliezer,” Abram’s steward (15:2), was 318. In modern times Winckler has found some supporters for the astronomical explanation, that the moon is visible for 318 days in the year; and that the number of Abram’s retainers must, therefore, indicate that the story of Abram is blended with a lunar myth. The two explanations possess a certain kind of resemblance in their ingenuity and their improbability.

Dan] The pursuit of Abram enabled him to overtake the booty-laden army at Laish (Josh. 19:47), on the north frontier of Canaan. Laish received the name of Dan after its conquest by a band of Danites, as recorded in Jud. 18. The mention of Dan, therefore, is, strictly speaking, an anachronism, though quite intelligible. That Abram should overtake and smite his enemy at the furthest northern limit of the future Israelite country, is a feature in the story not without symbolical significance.

But, if Abram with a small force had to pursue the enemy the whole length of Palestine, the retiring army, though burdened with spoil, must have marched at a high rate of speed. Again, Dan would not be on the high road to Damascus; it lay too far to the left.

divided himself against them by night] Abram divides his forces into three bands, and from three different quarters delivers a simultaneous night attack. The same manoeuvre was adopted by Gideon (Jud. 7:20–22), when a small force similarly routed a large army. Cf. 1 Sam. 11:11. The surprise was complete. Chedorlaomer’s panic-stricken troops are chased for over 100 miles, and all the prisoners and booty recovered.

There is no mention of Abram’s confederates (see vv. 13 and 24). The credit of the victories lies with Abram and his household force.

unto Hobah] Probably a place about 50 miles north of Damascus. Skinner rightly points out that “it is idle to pretend that Abram’s victory was merely a surprise attack on the rearguard, and the recovery of part of the booty. A pursuit carried so far implies the rout of the main body of the enemy” (p. 267).

which is on the left hand of Damascus] For “left hand,” R.V. marg. has north. An Israelite always spoke as if he were facing eastward; and the north is, therefore, on his left hand; cf. 2:24.

Damascus, the capital of Syria (Heb. Damméseḳ = Assyr. Dimashḳi, = Dimashk esh-Shâm, i.e. “Damascus of Syria”), a famous city, mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions as early as the 16th century. On the fable of Abram’s capture of it, see note on 12:5.

the king of Sodom] See note on v. 10. The writer evidently assumes that this is the same king who had fallen in “the slime pits”; for only the king who had lost property and wealth, but saved his life, could suggest to Abram that the latter should keep the booty.

from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer] Lit. “from the smiting of.” We need not suppose that Chedorlaomer and his vassal kings were personally involved in the overthrow.

the vale of Shaveh (the same is the King’s Vale)] “The King’s Vale” is mentioned in 2 Sam. 18:18 as the site of the monument raised by Absalom, and was supposed in the days of Josephus to be two “stadia” from Jerusalem (Ant. vii. 10, 3). The word Shaveh means “a plain,” cf. v. 5.

The meeting of the king of Sodom with Abram is here strangely interrupted by the story of the appearance of Melchizedek, and is resumed at v. 21.

18–20. Abram and Melchizedek

Melchizedek king of Salem] The name Melchizedek was considered by the Jews to mean “the king of righteousness” (Heb. 7:2), or “my king” (malchi) “is righteousness” (zedek). The name should be compared with that of Adoni-zedek (Josh. 10:1). It appears most probable that Zedek was the name of a Canaanite deity, and that the names Adoni-zedek, Melchizedek, meant “my Lord is Zedek,” “my king is Zedek,” just as Adonijah, Malchijah, meant “my Lord is Jah” and “my king is Jah.”

Salem] In all probability to be identified with Jerusalem, as evidently by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb. 7:1, 2). The objection, that Jerusalem was too far south for the present incident, is of no value. The objection that in Judg. 19:10 the ancient name of Jerusalem was “Jebus” is not conclusive. “Jebus,” as a name, seems only to have been inferred from the Jebusites. See Driver, H.D.B., s.v. “Jebus”; G. A. Smith, Jerusalem, i. 266. The following points deserve consideration: (a) In the Tel-el-Amarna tablets Jerusalem appears with the name Uru-salim. (b) Salem is the poetical, or archaic, name for Jerusalem, in Ps. 76:2. (c) Melchizedek is compared to the king of Zion in Ps. 110:4. (d) Abram’s paying of tithe to Melchizedek gains greatly in symbolical significance, if Salem is the same as Jerusalem. (e) The tradition of this identification is favoured by Josephus (Ant. i. 10, 1) and the Targums.

The alternative suggestion, made by Jerome, that Salem is the place mentioned in John 3:23, in the Jordan Valley, seems very improbable. On the other hand, if Salem be Jerusalem, it is the only mention of Jerusalem in the Pentateuch.

brought forth bread and wine] As a friendly king, Melchizedek provides food and drink for the returning victor, and, as a priest, gives to him his blessing. In the mention of bread and wine there is no idea of religious offerings. It is the gift of food to weary and famished soldiers. Jewish commentators have regarded these gifts as symbolizing the shew-bread and the drink-offering: Christian exegesis has often associated them with the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. But the bread and wine are not offered to God; they are given to Abram as a token of good-will and as a means of refreshment. There is nothing sacrificial in the gift.

he was priest of God Most High] Melchizedek was not only king (melek) of Salem, but also a priest (ḳohen). The combination of the priestly with the kingly functions was common in the East; though amongst the Israelites it is not found until the Maccabean period.

This is the first mention of a priest in Holy Scripture. It is clearly intended that Melchizedek should impersonate pure Monotheism.

Melchizedek is a, not the priest of “God Most High” (Heb. El Elyon). Some have thought that El Elyon denotes here the name of an ancient Canaanite deity, and quote, in favour of this view, the statement of Philo of Byblus (Euseb. Prep. Ev. i. 10) that there was a Phoenician divinity Ἐλιοῦν καλούμενος Ὕψιστος = “Elyon called Most High.” But El in the O.T. is one of the most common names of God, especially frequent in poetical and archaic usage. It is often combined with some qualifying epithet denoting an attribute, e.g. 17:1, “God Almighty” = El Shaddai: 21:33, “the Everlasting God” = El ‘olâm: Ex. 20:5, “a jealous God” = El ḳanna. Again Elyon, “Most High,” is an epithet often applied to Jehovah, e.g. Num. 24:16; and combined with El, Ps. 78:35. Melchizedek seems, therefore, to be regarded by the writer as a priest of God Almighty, the God of the Universe. The fuller knowledge of God as Jehovah, the God of Revelation, was the privilege of Abram and his descendants. The conception of Melchizedek as the representative of a primitive phase of Natural Religion, in the Canaan of 2000 b.c., idealizes his figure. Very probably, in the scene before us, his interposition will best be interpreted symbolically. Josephus (Ant. xv. 6, 2) mentions that the Maccabee princes assumed the title of High Priest “of God Most High.” Cf. Assumption of Moses, 6:1, “There shall be raised up unto them kings bearing rule, and they shall call themselves priests of the Most High God.”

19. he blessed him] Melchizedek, as a priest, blessed Abram for his courageous and chivalrous action. A stranger in the land, he had come to the rescue of its people.

of God Most High] i.e. by God Most High. The blessing of El Elyon is invoked by Melchizedek upon Abram, the servant of Jehovah.

possessor of heaven and earth] R.V. marg. maker. The word is poetical. It expresses the ideas of making, producing, creating, as in Deut. 32:6, Ps. 139:13, Prov. 8:22. It is more often used for “acquiring” (cf. 4:1), a sense which would not here be applicable. In Isai. 1:3, it is found, as here, with the meaning of “owner.”

blessed be God Most High]—”praised be El Elyon.” The verb has a different sense when applied to the Deity from what it has when applied to man. To “bless God” means devoutly to acknowledge, that He has been the source of goodness which demands man’s thankfulness and praise. Melchizedek blesses the God, whose priest he is, for the great victory which his God has granted Abram.

And he gave him a tenth of all] Note once more a change of subject. It is Abram who gives Melchizedek a tenth part “of all,” i.e. the spoil; not of his own property, as he was at a distance from home, and was only in light marching order. The custom of paying a tithe, or tenth part, to the priesthood, or to the sanctuary, was very general in ancient times. Traces of it are found in Assyria and Babylonia. It prevailed among the Greeks. For the custom in Israel, see note on 28:22. Abram, the father of the Israelite people, performs symbolically an action which recognizes for future time their obligation to the sanctuary of Jerusalem.

The two statements that Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, (1) blessed Abram, (2) received tithes from Abram, led to the figurative employment of Melchizedek in Ps. 110:4 as the ideal of a priest-king appointed by God to rule over the kingdom of Judah; and in Heb. 5:9, 7:4, as the type of the great kingly High Priest, raised above the Aaronic priesthood, at once king and priest receiving tithe from Abram, who impersonated the people and religion of Israel. See Special Note.

the king of Sodom] This verse resumes the narrative of v. 17. The incident of Melchizedek is parenthetical.

I have lift up mine hand] i.e. I have sworn, taken an oath with a gesture, symbolizing the appeal to God. Cf. Deut. 32:40; Dan. 12:7.

the Lord, God Most High] i.e. Jehovah El Elyon. The LXX and Syriac Peshitto omit “Jehovah.” The Sam. reads ha-Elohim for “Jehovah.” Abram takes his oath in the name of the God of Melchizedek whom a later scribe probably identified with Jehovah.

a thread … a shoelatchet] Not the most trifling thing, not even, the lace for a sandal, will Abram take. The fact that Abram has already (v. 20) given to Melchizedek a tithe of all the spoil, strictly speaking, conflicts with his refusal, in this verse, to take any share of the spoil. Probably this discrepancy is an indication that the episode of Melchizedek (vv. 18–20) has been introduced from a distinct source of tradition.

lest thou shouldest say, &c.] Abram emphasizes the fact, (1) that he did not make war in order to make himself richer or stronger: (2) that he and his household are not going to be beholden to the king of Sodom and the people of the Plain. What he had done, was not for gain, but for the safety of his relative Lot. Contrast, however, Abraham’s acceptance of gifts, in 12:16, 20:14–16, under different cumstances.

save only that] Better, as R.V. marg., “let there be nothing for me; only that, &c.” The expression here used occurs again in 41:16, It might be expressed in colloquial language: “nothing at all, please, so far as I am concerned.” Abram goes on to specify the two necessary exceptions, (1) a claim for the rations of his 318 followers: (2) a claim that an equitable share in the spoil should be assigned to his three confederates, mentioned in v. 13, who, we here learn for the first time, had joined in the dangers of the enterprise. According to the rights of war, all the booty belonged to Abram: and he magnanimously renounces his claim.

Special Note on Chapter 14

The precise amount of historical value to be assigned to the contents of this chapter has in recent years been much disputed. Archaeology, as Skinner says (p. 276), has proved “that the general setting of the story is consistent with the political situation in the East as disclosed by the monuments; and that it contains data which cannot possibly be the fabrications of an unhistorical age.”

I. Possible Historical Situation. The following is a brief summary of the historical facts which are possibly involved in the account of the Eastern kings mentioned in this chapter: “Under the early kings of the first dynasty of Babylon, the Elamites had invaded Southern Babylonia, and possibly the invasion was the immediate cause of Terah’s migration northwards. At the time of Khammurabi, Kudur-Mabug was the governor of Emutbal, while his son, Rîm-Sin, ruled over Larsa and Ur. Chedorlaomer, whether identical (?) with Kudur-Mabug, or his over-lord, might thus not unnaturally have obliged Amraphel (Khammurabi) to accompany him to battle (Gen. 14:1–2). During the latter part of his reign, however, Khammurabi threw off the Elamite yoke, and also defeated Rîm-Sin (who succeeded his brother Arad-Sin as ruler over Larsa) and established his supremacy over Babylonia as well as over the land of Amurru (i.e. Canaan).”

II. Possible Date. The date assigned by Ungnad (Gressmann’s Texte u. Bilder (1909), i. 103) to the reign of Khammurabi is 2130–2088. Driver (in his Addenda, p. xxxix. n. 3) mentions that Khammurabi “lived, according to Nabuna’id (559–539 b.c.), 700 years before Burnaburiash (1399–1365 b.c.), i.e. c. 2100 b.c.”

No trace has yet been found in the inscriptions of this particular expedition in which the Elamite king Chedorlaomer, attended by his vassal kings of Babylonia, Larsa, and Goiim, invaded the country E. of the Jordan, in order to punish a rebellion. It may be prudent, until further evidence is forthcoming, to suspend our judgement upon the identification of the names of the four kings of the East. The distinguished Assyriologist, Johns, after an investigation of the whole subject, raised a warning voice ten years ago. “The cuneiform originals suggested for the names in Gen. 14 are therefore only ingenious conjectures. They may all be right, but as yet not one is proved” (Expositor, Oct. 1903, p. 286).

III. Literary Character. The chapter differs in style from the three main literary sources of Genesis, J, E, and P. The special use of the words rendered “goods” (vv. 11, 12, 16, 21), “persons” (v. 21), “born in his house” (v. 14, cf. 17:12 P), which are characteristic of P, is insufficient for any general inference.

The mention of Lot in v. 12 as “Abram’s brother’s son” may possibly be a gloss. But the unique description of Abram in v. 13 as “the Hebrew,” as if his name were here freshly introduced, is certainly surprising. It cannot, however, be claimed that the chapter is a mere isolated fragment. It presupposes the residence of Lot in the region of Sodom and Gomorrah (13:10–11 J). It assumes the residence of Abram by “the oaks (or, terebinths) of Mamre” (13:18 J; cf. 14:13), although it identifies Mamre and Eshcol, with the names of persons and not of places.

The unskilfulness of the literary style is in marked contrast to that which is prevalent throughout the rest of the book. The following examples are noteworthy in this short passage. (1) The grammatical structure of vv. 1 and 2 is strangely cumbrous: “And it came to pass in the days of [four kings], that they made war.” (2) Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, who, as appears from vv. 9 and 17, was the over-lord and leader of the expedition, is mentioned third in the list of the four kings in v. 1. (3) In v. 3 it is uncertain which kings are spoken of, and the contents of the verse anticipate v. 8. (4) It is implied in v. 10 that the king of Sodom perished; in v. 17 the king, of Sodom meets Abram on his return from his victory. (5) The incident of Melchizedek (vv. 18–20) interrupts the account of the meeting of the king of Sodom with Abram (vv. 17, 21). (6) In v. 20 “he gave him a tenth of all,” if, as has generally been supposed, Abram is the giver and Melchizedek the recipient, there is an abrupt change of subject. But the grammatical uncertainty has led some to suppose that Melchizedek paid tithes to Abram!

IV. Geographical Notes. In the geographical allusions, archaic names are for the most part employed.

(a) v. 2, “Bela (the same is Zoar).” It is implied that the city whose name was altered to Zoar (19) had previously been called Bela.

(b) v. 3, “the vale of Siddim (the same is the Salt Sea).” This name for the Dead Sea is only found in this passage. It assumes that four cities out of the five (i.e. Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim) were overwhelmed at the time of the catastrophe described in chap. 19.

(c) vv. 4, 5, “the Rephaim … the Zuzim … the Emim … the Horites” are mentioned in Deut. 2:10–12, 20, 21 as the names of the aborigines subsequently dispossessed by Moab, Ammon, and Edom. The Rephaim, or sons of Rapha, were a legendary race of “giants.”

(d) v. 7, “En-mishpat (the same is Kadesh).” Kadesh was the scene of the Israelite encampment in the wilderness; where Moses obtained water for the people by striking the rock (Num. 20:1–13). If the name En-mishpat (a Well of Judgement) was an older title, it implied the existence of water there before the name of “The Waters of Meribah” had been given to the spring.

(e) v. 7, “the Amalekites and the Amorites.” The mention of the Amorites along with the Amalekites who were a wandering race in the south of Canaan, is inexact. “Amorite” is sometimes used in E for “Canaanite.” The “Amurru” of the Tel-el-Amarna tablets were in N. Palestine.

(f) v. 14, “as far as Dan.” The writer, instead of using the archaic name Laish or Leshem, employs the name which could only have come into use after the capture of the town by the Danites, recorded in Judg. 18:29.

(g) v. 17, “the vale of Shaveh (the same is the King’s Vale).” “Shaveh” is here used as a proper name; but, as in v. 5, it is usually a word meaning “a plain.” The King’s Vale, if we may judge from 2 Sam. 18:18, was in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

(h) v. 18, “king of Salem.” See note. In view of the archaic names employed in the context, it is most natural to assume that “Jerusalem” is intended; and that the writer deliberately avoided the familiar name of the city. On the other hand, “The Samaritans identified the city of Salem with their sanctuary on Mount Gerizim (see LXX, Gen. 33:18; comp. Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica ix. 17).”

V. Origin of Tradition obscure. Whatever its source may have been, the story stands by itself. It represents one of many legends which were current respecting the patriarch. Whether the framework in which it now stands be derived from a very early document or from some later collection of traditions (Midrash), it is impossible to decide.

That Abram should suddenly figure in events of the greater world’s history, that he should appear as a warrior and inflict defeat upon the armies of four Eastern kings, produces an impression widely different from that which is forthcoming from the rest of the patriarchal narrative. But, making allowance for the tendency of traditions to magnify the deeds of the national hero, we need not pass any hasty verdict against the general trustworthiness of the story.

It is true that, according to the Hebrew tradition, the five kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela, must have been petty princes of towns lying quite close together in a small inconsiderable district of S.E. Canaan; and that an expedition against them by their over-lord, the king of Elam, and his vassals would, on the face of it, have been most improbable. But we must remember that, if we might assume a wide-spread rebellion, or refusal to pay tribute, on the part of the Western Provinces belonging to the Elamite Empire, the punitive expedition, according to the Hebrew local legends, would have been reputed to be more especially directed against the Canaanite rebellious kings. As to the improbability of the route, or of the strategy, it is unreasonable to expect minute accuracy from a narrative reproducing archaic conditions, in reference to an almost prehistoric event. Proper names, when unfamiliar, are liable to undergo assimilation to more familiar ones. The heroic deeds of the hero become exaggerated: the greatness of his victories is enhanced by lapse of time.

If we may judge from geological evidence, there is no probability in the supposition that in the time of Abram the Dead Sea submerged a fertile district and overwhelmed populous cities. Hence it is not unlikely that the tradition of the Five Cities “in the vale of Siddim” may have received an erroneous identification as to their site and names.

Special Note on Melchizedek

1. Its significance. The episode of Melchizedek (14:18–20) is one of the most interesting in the Book of Genesis. Its extreme brevity heightens the sense of mystery in which it is involved. It may be taken for granted that the incident is introduced on account of its profound religious significance. It describes the meeting between the Priest-King of “the Most High God” of the Human Race and the Father of the Chosen People, the Servant of Jehovah, the God of the new Revelation. The moment chosen for this meeting is instructive. Abram, the Hebrew stranger, is returning from victory over the foes of the land: Melchizedek, the Canaanite Priest-King, has had no part in the campaign. Abram represents the new spiritual force that has entered the world’s history: Melchizedek represents the ideal of the permanent communion of mankind with God. The new family and the new nation, through whom that communion is ultimately to be perfected, render their homage to the representative of the Universal and the Omnipotent.

To the Israelite reader Jerusalem was the centre of pure religion and spiritual aspirations. Abram, impersonating the people of which he was to be the founder, receives from Melchizedek, the Priest-King of Jerusalem (Salem), not riches, nor offers of reward and possessions, but firstly bread and wine, sustenance and refreshment, and secondly his blessing, in the name of the Most High God, upon the servant of Jehovah. Abram, in his turn, renders tithe to Melchizedek, typifying thereby the obligation of every true son of Abram to recognize the full claims of the spiritual life upon his loyal service.

II. Details for study. 1. The Name. Though originally the name may have meant “Zedek is king,” it suggested to Israelite readers or hearers “the king of righteousness,” cf. Heb. 7:2, or “righteous king,” cf. Joseph. B. J. vi. 10, Μελχ. ὁ τῇ πατρίᾳ γλώσσῃ κληθεὶς βασιλεὺς δίκαιος. For the Messianic significance of which, cf. Ps. 45:4 ff.; Jer. 23:6, 33:15, 16; Dan. 9:24; Mal. 4:2.

2. His Royal Office. He is King of Salem; and, while this title denoted to the Israelite the personal character of “a king of peace” (cf. Heb. 7:2), it can scarcely be doubted that in the identification of Salem with Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 76:2; Joseph. Ant. i. 180) lies the peculiar typical significance of the event. The name of the city in the Tel-el-Amarna tablets (circ. 1400) is Urusalim: the king of Jerusalem in Jos. 10:1 is Adoni-zedek.

3. His Priestly Office. He is Priest as well as king. He is Priest of the Most High God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who is identified, according to the text of v. 22, by Abram with Jehovah. There is no suggestion of anything evil, impure, or polluting, in the worship of which Melchizedek, a native Canaanite, is a priest. Abram treats him as the official representative of the true God. It was not until the age of the Maccabees that the High Priest was also king.

4. His Blessing. As the representative of the true God, Melchizedek invokes upon Abram a message of Divine blessing. He blesses God; the victory of Abram over his foes is a ground for grateful praise. He presents the patriarch with bread and wine as the pledge of good-will and as an expression of honour and gratitude.

5. He receives tithe from Abram, cf. Heb. 7:7–10. The receiver is greater than the giver of tithe. The impersonator of the ideal worship at Jerusalem receives tithe from the father and founder of the Israelite people.

6. Melchizedek disappears from the page of history as suddenly as he appears. Nothing is recorded of his family or lineage, of his life or actions. He “stands unique and isolated both in his person and in his history … his life has no recorded beginning or close” (Westcott, Ep. Hebrews, p. 172). It is not the man Melchizedek, but the Scripture portrait of Melchizedek in Gen. 14, which causes the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to designate him as “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.”

7. The Messianic passage in Ps. 110:4 (quoted in Heb. 5:6, 7:17, 21), “Thou art a priest after the order (or, manner) of Melchizedek,” seems to mean that the Messiah is not a priest of the tribe of Levi, or of the family of Aaron, but, like the Priest-King of Jerusalem in the story of Abram, is, according to a more primitive conception of priesthood, the king of a kingdom of priests (cf. Ex. 19:6).

8. Melchizedek is not mentioned in the Apocryphal Books. There is a lacuna in the Book of Jubilees at this passage (13:25). Abram has evidently made his offering of tithe; and the next words are “… for Abram, and for his seed, a tenth of the first-fruits to the Lord, and the Lord ordained it as an ordinance for ever that they should give it to the priests who served before Him, that they should possess it for ever. And to this law there is no limit of days; for He hath ordained it for the generations for ever that they should give to the Lord the tenth of everything, of the seed and of the wine and of the oil and of the cattle and of the sheep. And He gave it unto His priests to eat and to drink with joy before Him” (Charles’ Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, vol. ii. p. 33).

9. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews regards Melchizedek as the type of Christ; as (a) King of Righteousness; (b) King of Peace; (c) Priest, not of the line of Levi or Aaron; (d) greater than Abraham, receiving tithes from him; (e) eternal. See chap. 7 with Westcott’s notes.

10. Philo allegorizes the person of Melchizedek, who, he considers, represents the priesthood of “right reason,” offering to the soul the sustenance of gladness and joy in the thoughts of absolute truth (Leg. Allegor. iii. § 25).

11. Clement of Alexandria (Strom. iv. 25) regards the offerings of bread and wine as typical of the Eucharist, adding, “And Melchizedek is interpreted ‘righteous King’; and the name is a synonym for righteousness and peace”: cf. Strom. ii. 5, “He (the Saviour) is Melchizedek, ‘the king of peace,’ the most fit of all to head the race of men.”;

12. Jerome (Ep. lxxiii. ad Evangelum), summarizing opinions about Melchizedek, mentions that Origen and Didymus held him to have been an Angel; many others thought he was a Canaanite prince, exercising priestly offices, like “Abel, Enoch, Noah, Job”; the Jews very commonly identified him with Shem. Again, it appears to have been held by some writers, that Melchizedek was a manifestation of the Son; by others, that he was an appearance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Quaest. ex V. et N. Test. Augustini Opera, tom. iii. App. § cix.: ed. Migne, P. L. 35, p. 2329).

13. Westcott (Ep. to the Hebrews, p. 203) gives an account of the interesting legend respecting Melchizedek preserved in “the Book of Adam.” “To him (Melchizedek) and Shem … the charge was given to bear the body of Adam to Calvary, and to place it there where in after time the Incarnate Word should suffer, so that the blood of the Saviour might fall on the skull of the Protoplast. In the fulfilment of this mission Melchizedek built an altar of twelve stones, typical of the twelve apostles, by the spot where Adam was laid, and offered upon it, by the direction of an angel, bread and wine ‘as a symbol of the sacrifice which Christ should make’ in due time. When the mission was accomplished, Shem returned to his old home, but Melchizedek, divinely appointed to this priesthood, continued to serve God with prayer and fasting at the holy place, arrayed in a robe of fire. So afterwards when Abraham came to the neighbourhood he communicated to him also ‘the holy Mysteries,’ the symbolical Eucharist.”

14. That the episode of Melchizedek has been introduced from a distinct source of tradition is very probable. (a) It interrupts the narrative in v. 17, which is continued in v. 21. (b) Its contents are not in harmony with the context. In v. 22, Abram refuses to take anything from the spoil: in v. 20, Abram is said to give Melchizedek “a tenth of all.” If “a tenth of all” refers to the spoil, it contradicts v. 22: if it refers to “all” his own property, then it assumes for Abram quite different surroundings from those of the story in chap. 14.

No late tradition of Abram is likely to have represented him as offering a tithe “of all” to a Canaanite king. But the short passage may illustrate a large class of traditions, religious and symbolical in character, which in early days had collected round the name of the patriarch. Ps. 110:4 is evidently based upon the present passage.

Ch. 15. The Covenant with Abram. (J, E.)

This chapter contains at least two slightly different narratives, which dealing with the same subject have been blended together. Thus vv. 1 and 5 speak of Abram in sleep, at night time, when the stars are visible: in vv. 12 and 17 we read of the sun going down, and afterwards, when the sun had set, of its becoming dark. In v. 6, Abram’s faith is singled out for especial commendation. In v. 8, Abram, in distress and doubt, asks for a sign. In vv. 13–16, is recorded an explicit promise of the occupation of the land of the Amorite. In vv. 17, 18, the covenant is made, with a brief sentence containing a promise of the land. The probability is that we have here a combination of the two threads of prophetic narrative, which have been distinguished by scholars as (E) Elohist, or Ephraimite, and (J) Jehovist, or Judean. See Introduction.

1–6. The Promise of an Heir

After these things] A vague note of time. Cf. 22:1, 20; 40:1; 48:1.

the word of the Lord] i.e. the word of Jehovah, as in v. 4. This is a technical expression in the O.T. for a Divine revelation to a prophet. It occurs nowhere else in the Pentateuch. It suggests the prophetic character of Abram, and should be compared with 20:7 (E), where Abram is spoken of as a prophet.

in a vision] Evidently, as is shewn by v. 5, the vision occurs in a dream, or in the condition described in Num. 24:3, 4; cf. Job 4:13, “in thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men.”

Fear not] The situation requiring this particular encouragement is not described. Abram, alone, childless, surrounded with foreigners, is not a coward, but is tempted, at times of depression, to fear that there is to be no fulfilment of the promise.

thy shield] A poetical simile of frequent occurrence, e.g. Deut. 33:29; Ps. 3:3; Prov. 2:7, “He is a shield to them that walk in integrity”; 30:5, “He is a shield unto them that trust in him.”

and thy exceeding great reward] So the Lat. et merces tua magna nimis. But R.V. marg. thy reward shall be exceeding great is preferable. So the LXX. That for which Abram shall be rewarded is his trust.

Lord God] God = Heb. Jehovah, as in other places where it is put in capitals. “Adonai Jehovah”: this combination of sacred names occurs only here, v. 8, and Deut. 3:24, 9:26, in the Pentateuch. It is, however, not uncommon in the prophetical writings; and is especially frequent in Ezekiel. The Hebrew student will notice that the sacred name JHVH receives here the vowel points “e” “o” “i” of Elohim, because the word “Adonai,” whose pronunciation it generally receives, immediately precedes it. Where the full word “Adonai” precedes JHVH, the Jewish scribes, in order to prevent profane repetition of the word “Adonai,” punctuate and pronounce JHVH as if it were “Elohim”; hence they would read here Adonai Elohim, not Adonai Adonai.

seeing I go childless] R.V. marg. go hence. LXX ἀπολύομαι, Lat. ego vadam. “I go” is generally understood to mean here, “I depart this life.” Cf. “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart,” Luke 2:29 (νῦν ἀπολύεις τὸν δοῦλόν σου, δέσποτα). But it might mean, “I take my ordinary path in life, childless.”

The misfortune of having no children was acutely felt by the Israelite: see Num. 27:4, “Why should the name of our father be taken away from among his family, because he had no son?”

possessor of my house] i.e. my heir.

The conclusion of this verse, in the original, gives no sense. The R.V. probably furnishes the general meaning. The confusion is apparent in LXX, ὁ δὲ υἱὸς Μάσεκ τῆς οἰκογενοῦς μου, οὗτος Δαμασκὸς Ἐλιέζερ = “And the son of Masek, my slave born in the house, this is Damascus Eliezer.”

Dammesek Eliezer] R.V. marg., Targum of Onkelos, and Syriac, have Eliezer the Damascene. The text is corrupt. Literally the sentence runs: “and the son of the possession of my house is Damascus Eliezer.” Dammesek is the usual Hebrew word for “Damascus.” Attempts to restore the text have not been successful.

Ball conjectures, “And he who will possess my house is a Damascene, Eliezer.” Eliezer is probably the same as the faithful servant of Abram mentioned in 24:2, where the name is not given. The possible reference to Damascus in this verse gave rise to the traditions connecting Abram with the conquest of Damascus; see Josephus (Ant. i. 7, 2), quoting Nicolaus of Damascus, who wrote in the days of Herod the Great; cf. note on 12:5.

one born in my house] The childless master of the house is here represented as likely to be succeeded by a member of his household. Lot is ignored. For the favourable position of a trusted slave in an Israelite household, cf. 24; 1 Sam. 9:3–8, 22; 1 Chron. 2:34 ff.; Prov. 17:2.

tell the stars] i.e. count. A proverbial expression for the infinite and innumerable, as in 22:17, 26:4.

The word “tell” is Old English for “count,” as in Ps. 22:17, “I may tell all my bones”; Ps. 48:12, “tell the towers thereof”; Jer. 33:13, “And in the cities of Judah shall the flocks again pass under the hands of him that telleth them.” Cf. “And every shepherd tells his tale Under the hawthorn in the dale” (Milton, L’Allegro, 67, 68).

he believed in the Lord] Abram believed (1) in God’s protection (v. 1), (2) in the fulfilment of the promise of a son (v. 4), and (3) of innumerable descendants (v. 5). It is this trust to which St Paul refers (Rom. 4:18), “who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, So shall thy seed be.”

“Believed in,” i.e. “believed,” “trusted,” as with the same Hebrew construction, Ex. 14:31, Jonah 3:5.

In the Ep. to the Hebrews (11:8, 17) Abram’s faith is not illustrated from this, passage, but from his leaving his country (chap. 12) and from his sacrifice of his son (22).

and he counted it to him for righteousness] A short pregnant sentence of abstract religious thought. The word “righteousness” (edâqâh) occurs here for the first time in Scripture. It denotes the qualities of the man who is “righteous,” or “right with God” (see note on ṣaddîq, 7:1). To the Israelite, “righteousness” implied the perfect obedience of the law. The writer records that, at a time when there was no law, Jehovah reckoned the faith of Abram, shewn in simple trust and obedience, as equivalent to the subsequent technical fulfilment of legal righteousness. The trustful surrender to the loving will of God is represented, in this typical instance of the father of the Israelite people, as, in Divine estimation, the foundation of true religion.

For the phrase, cf. the reference to Phinehas, Ps. 106:31, “and that was counted unto him for righteousness.”

For the argument based by St Paul on this verse in connexion with the doctrine of the justification by faith, see Rom. 4:1–25; Gal. 3:6: cf. Jas. 2:23.

7–19. The Ratification of the Promise by a Solemn Covenant

The occasion of the covenant is distinct from that described in vv. 1–6; but the connexion of thought is obvious. It is the man of faith who has the privilege of vision and is admitted into direct covenant relation with his God.

out of Ur of the Chaldees] Possibly a later gloss: see note on 11:31, 12:1. Cf. Neh. 9:7, 8.

whereby shall I know] Abram requests a sign to assure him of the fulfilment of the promise: cf. the action of Gideon, Judg. 6:17, and of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 20:8. On “Lord God,” see note on v. 2.

Take me an heifer, &c.] The sign to Abram is the sign of the covenant, of which the ceremonial is here described. This ceremonial is evidently of great antiquity. The writer, perhaps, intends to refer the origin of the institution to the time of Abram and to this occasion. The ceremony is as follows: (1) Animals permitted for sacrifice are selected. (2) They are killed, and their carcases divided. (3) The divided portions are placed in two rows over against each other. (4) The contracting parties pass between the rows, invoking, as they do so, an imprecation upon any violator of the covenant, that he should in like manner be cut asunder.

It is this ceremonial which causes the making of a covenant to be expressed by words meaning “to cut,” e.g. Heb. karath b’rîth, Lat. foedus icere, Gr. ὅρκια τέμνειν.

The details of the ceremony probably differed slightly from age to age. The origin of some old customs is lost in obscurity. Why, for instance, are the animals mentioned to be three years old? is it because they are to be full grown? (Cf. 1 Sam. 1:24, R.V. marg.) Why are the birds not to be divided like the beasts? These are questions of a technical ritual character to which at present we can give no answer.

The most interesting Scriptural illustration of covenant ceremonial is afforded by Jer. 34:18, “the covenant which they made before me, when they cut the calf in twain and passed between the parts thereof.”

And the birds of prey, &c.] The birds of prey, regarded as unclean, swooping down threatened to carry off the pieces of flesh. This would have interrupted the ceremony with an evil omen, polluted the sacrifice, and impaired the covenant. Abram drives away the birds of ill omen. In the context, these birds evidently symbolized the Egyptians, who threatened, by enslaving Israel in Egypt, to frustrate the fulfilment of the Divine promise to the seed of Abram. The chasing away of the birds typified the surmounting of all obstacles.

The LXX συνεκάθισεν αὐτοῖς = “he sat with them” for “he drove them away” (reading vay-yêsheb ittâm for vay-yasshêb ôthâm) is a strange example of the mistakes arising from Hebrew writing without vowel points.

a deep sleep] See note on the same word in 2:21. LXX ἔκστασις.

an horror of great darkness fell] Lit. “an horror, even great darkness was falling.” A vivid description of the sensation of terror, preliminary to the revelation he was to receive.

a stranger] The word used (gêr) (LXX πάροικος) means more than a “sojourner” (cf. 23:4, Ex. 2:22).

A stranger (gêr) is properly a guest residing in another country, whose rights are in a sense protected. He may be merely a temporary sojourner (tôshâb). But as a “stranger” (gêr) he has a recognized status in the community. As a “sojourner” (tôshâb), he has none; he is a mere social “bird of passage.” The difference is that between a “resident foreigner” and “a foreign visitor.”

and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them] The personal pronouns in English are ambiguous. There is a change of subject. Israel shall be slaves to the people of a land that is not theirs, i.e. to the Egyptians; and the Egyptians shall afflict them. The LXX δουλώσουσιν, “they, i.e. the Egyptians, shall make bondmen of them, i.e. the Israelites,” gives a different turn to the first clause, and avoids the interchange of subject and object: cf. the quotation in Acts 7:6.

four hundred years] See note on v. 16. The figure agrees in round numbers with the number of 430 years assigned, in Ex. 12:40, to the sojourning of Israel in Egypt. Cf. Acts 7:6; Gal. 3:17.

will I judge] Referring to the plagues of Egypt.

with great substance] See Ex. 12:35, 36; Ps. 105:37.

15. go to thy fathers] i.e. depart in death to join thy forefathers in the place of departed spirits, i.e. Sheôl. Cf. 47:30, “when I sleep with my fathers”; 49:33, “was gathered unto his people.”

a good old age] See for the fulfilment of this promise, 25:7, 8. To live to a good old age and to depart this life in peace, was, as is shewn in the typical lives of the patriarchs, regarded as the reward of true piety. Cf. Job 5:26, “Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in its season”; Prov. 9:11, 10:27.

in the fourth generation] This agrees with the genealogy in Ex. 6:16–20, where the generations are: (1) Levi, (2) Kohath, (3) Amram, (4) Moses. If the fourth generation is to be harmonized with the 400 years in v. 13, a generation must have been computed as 100 years. Isaac was born in Abram’s 100th year. But it may be doubted, whether the mention of “the fourth generation” comes from the same hand as “the 400 years” in v. 13.

for the iniquity of the Amorite] The idea is that the wickedness of the people of Canaan must reach a certain degree, before the Divine penalty can be inflicted. The postponement of the penalty, which indicates Divine forbearance, means also a terrible, but gradual, accumulation of guilt. For the iniquity of the Amorites, cf. 13:13, Lev. 18:24–30, Deut. 9:5. On the Amorite, see 10:16.

a smoking furnace] The sign of the covenant is given in the appearance of a kiln, from which issued smoke and a blazing torch; and this passed through the two rows of the divided carcases. The figure described as a “smoking furnace” (tannur) was that of a clay constructed kiln, or furnace, such as is used for baking purposes by the Fellaheen. It is the κλίβανος = “oven,” of Matt. 6:30. For the fire and smoke as a symbol of the Theophany, see Ex. 13:21, 19:18, 24:17.

the Lord made a covenant] A covenant, or compact, as between man and man, is necessarily impossible between God and man. God in His mercy gives the promise; man in his weakness acknowledges his willingness to obey. For the other covenants in the Pentateuch cf. 9, 17; Ex. 24. The origin of b’rîth = “covenant,” is uncertain. Some suggest barah = “eat,” in the sense of a “solemn meal.” See note on v. 9.

The fate of the victims was supposed to be invoked upon the head of the party who broke the covenant. Cf. Livy, i. 24, tum illo die, Juppiter, populum Romanum sic ferito, ut ego hunc porcum hic hodie feriam, tantoque magis ferito quanto magis potes pollesque. The idea of Robertson Smith that the two parties to the covenant, standing between the pieces, partook of the mystical life of the victim (Relig. of Semites, p. 480) remains doubtful.

from the river of Egypt] The n’har Mizraim is clearly the Nile. The ideal boundaries of the future territory of Israel are here stated in hyperbolical fashion, as extending from the Nile to the Euphrates: so Jos. 13:3, 1 Chron. 13:5. The Eastern, i.e. the Pelusiac, arm of the Nile is meant.

“The River of Egypt” is to be distinguished from “the Brook of Egypt,” naḥal Mizraim, Num. 34:5, Josh. 15:4, 47, the Rhino-colura, the modern Wady-el-Arish, a watercourse on the extreme S.W. of Palestine, on the confines of Egyptian territory.

unto the great river, the river Euphrates] Cf. Deut. 1:7, 11:24. It was probably only in the days of Solomon that this picture of Israelite greatness was ever approximately realized; see 1 Kings 4:21, Ps. 80:11.

19–21. The names of the ten peoples to be driven out by the Israelites. For other lists of these, cf. Ex. 3:8, 17, 13:5, 23:23, 34:11; Deut. 7:1, 20:17. Here only, are ten names given; usually only five or six are mentioned. The Kenite, the Kenizzite, the Kadmonite, the Perizzite, and the Rephaim, seem here to be added to make up the full list.

These verses and v. 18 are attributed by many scholars to a Deuteronomic editor.

the Kenite] Dwellers in the S. of Canaan, connected with the Amalekites and noted for their subsequent friendly relations with Israel. Cf. Num. 24:20, 21; Judg. 4:17; 1 Sam. 15:6.

the Kenizzite] Also a people on the Edomite border of Canaan; cf. Kenaz, 36:11. Caleb, the head of the tribe of Judah, was a Kenizzite, Num. 32:12, Josh. 14:6. Hence the Kenizzites were probably a south Palestinian clan absorbed into the tribe of Judah.

the Kadmonite] Probably dwellers on the eastern desert frontier of Canaan. Compare “the children of the east” (b’nê ḳedem) in 29:1.

the Hittite] See note on 10:15. Probably indicating the presence of Hittite settlements in Canaan—bands who had roamed southward from the great Hittite kingdom of the north.

the Perizzite, and the Rephaim] See notes on 13:7, 14:5.

the Amorite, &c.] See 10:15, 16.

Ch. 16. The Birth of Ishmael

The narrative in this chapter contains Israelite traditions respecting the birth, name, and dwelling-place of Ishmael.

(a)    It explains how the Israelites acknowledged the Ishmaelites to be an older branch of their own stock, dwelling on their southern borders.

(b)    It illustrates how they regarded them as inferior in dignity of descent, and as degraded by an Egyptian connexion.

Verses 1a, 3, 15, 16 are from P, while vv. 9, 10, 11 have been attributed to an editorial insertion. The remainder is from J.

1–6. Hagar and her Flight into the Desert. (J, P.)

handmaid] or “maidservant,” as in 12:16. The wife generally had a female slave, who was her own property, and not under the husband’s control: see 29:24, 29; 30:3–7, 9, 12.

an Egyptian] It is natural to connect Hagar’s Egyptian origin with the sojourn in Egypt mentioned in chap. 12, or with the journeys in the Negeb (12:9, 13:1).

The theory that the “Egypt” (Miṣraim) of which Hagar was a native was the land of a N. Arabian tribe (Muṣri) has been suggested by Winckler on account of the mention of Muṣri in N. Arabia in the cuneiform inscriptions. His theory supposes that the Muṣri of N. Arabia was at an early time confounded by the Israelites with the more famous, but similarly sounding, Miṣri, “an inhabitant of Egypt.” But, in view of the continual intercourse between Palestine and Egypt, as shewn by the Tel-el-Amarna tablets, the theory is improbable, and uncalled for. Egypt, at an early period, embraced the Sinaitic peninsula.

Hagar] The name “Hagar” is associated with that of wandering Arab tribes, called the Hagrites, 1 Chron. 5:10, 19, 20, 27:31, with which should be compared the Hagarenes of Ps. 83:6, “the tents of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; Moab, and the Hagarenes.”

Whether the story of Hagar, in this chapter, in any way bears upon the meaning of her name, is more than we can say for certain. But, in Arabic, hagara = “to flee,” and the well-known word hegira, the epoch of Mohammed, is his “flight” from Mecca.

it may be that I shall obtain children by her] Heb. lit. be builded by her; the same expression occurs in 30:3; the idea is that of the building up of a house (cf. Ruth 4:11, Deut. 25:9). The suggestion which Sarai here makes, may be illustrated from 30:3, 4, 9. Childlessness was, and still is, in the East, a great reproach (cf. 1 Sam. 1:2–20). It was the custom also in Babylonia, as is shewn by the Code of Hammurabi, that “if a man’s wife was childless, he was allowed to take a concubine and bring her into his house, but he was not to place her upon an equal footing with the wife. Or, the wife might give her husband a maidservant (amtu), and, if she brought up children, he was forbidden to take in addition a concubine” (S. A. Cook, The Laws of Moses and the Code of Hammurabi, p. iii).

by her] By the adoption of Hagar’s children as her own.

And Sarai Abram’s wife] This verse is P’s duplicate version of vv. 1, 2, adding the number of years that Abram had dwelt in Canaan.

was despised in her eyes] Compare the story in 1 Sam. 1, where the two wives are both “free,” and one is childless. Here the “free” wife, the mistress (gebéreth), gives her own maidservant (âmâh) to her husband; and is then jealous for her own dignity.

My wrong] i.e. may the wrong done to me be visited on thee! Sarai’s passionate and unjust complaint is the utterance of jealousy. Abram is not to blame for the step which she herself had recommended in accordance with the custom of the age. The possibility, that in these cases the position of the mistress might be compromised by the insolence of the handmaid, formed the subject of special provision in the Code of Hammurabi. “Branding was the punishment inflicted upon the owner’s handmaid who arrogantly set herself on an equality with her mistress” (§ 146: see S. A. Cook, p. 160).

LXX ἀδικοῦμαι ἐκ σοῦ, Lat. inique agis contra me.

judge between me and thee] Cf. 31:53; 1 Sam. 24:12. The latter passage adds “and the Lord avenge me of thee.” The “judgement” of the Lord may be the source of punishment: see note on 15:14.

in thy hand] Abram replies, with forbearance, that Hagar is under Sarai’s authority. Whether this is a formal transference of Hagar back into the power of Sarai, after she had become, as a concubine, the property of Abram, is not explained.

dealt hardly] The same word as that rendered “afflict” (15:13). Here it evidently means “persecute,” “ill-treat.”

fled] The character of Hagar is depicted as high-spirited and courageous, as well as independent. There is no evidence that her conduct was insolent.

7–14. Hagar and the Angel at the Well

the angel of the Lord] The Angel, i.e. messenger, of Jehovah is the personification of Jehovah. Observe that in verse 10 He identifies Himself with Jehovah, expressing in the first person sing. what He will do (cf. 21:18, 22:15–18).

In all probability, in the development of religious thought, the Angel of Jehovah marks an intermediate stage between the simple anthropomorphisms of Gen. 3, 11 and 18, and the later, more spiritual and abstract, conception of the Divine Being.

a fountain of water] i.e. a spring of water, which in the desert would mean an oasis towards which tracks would converge. See 24:13.

in the way to Shur] Probably, on the main trade route leading to her own country of Egypt. “Shur,” mentioned also in 20:1 and 25:18, has not been identified. It seems to mean “a wall”; and very probably was the name given to some spot on the line of the Egyptian frontier fortifications on the north-east, not far from the present Suez Canal. Possibly=the modern Tell abû-Sêpheh, 20 miles S. of Port Said.

And the angel of the Lord said] Notice the triple repetition of these sayings of the Angel in vv. 9, 10, 11, containing in v. 9 the injunction to return and submit, in v. 10 the promise of a multitude of descendants, and in vv. 11 and 12 the name and character of her future son. Verses 9 and 10 both begin with the same words as v. 11, and probably are editorial additions from different versions of the story.

I will greatly multiply] The Angel of Jehovah expresses in the 1st person the promise of that which Jehovah will perform; as in 21:18, 22:15–18, 31:13.

thou shalt call his name Ishmael] That is, God heareth. The name is to be given by the mother. Cf. note on 4:1, 25. The name “Ishmael” may mean either “God hears,” or “may God hear.” See also 21:17. The reason for the name is explained by the words, “because the Lord hath heard (shâma’) thy affliction.”

heard thy affliction] See note on v. 6. The expression means that Jehovah has either heard of the persecution Hagar has received, or, more probably, has heard the prayer uttered by her in her affliction (v. 6). Cf. Ex. 2:24, 4:31.

12. as a wild-ass among men] Lit. “a wild-ass of a man.” This description of Ishmael vividly portrays the characteristics of his descendants. The wild ass, for which see Job 39:5–8, Hos. 8:9, is the typically untameable, strong, free, roaming, suspicious, and untrustworthy animal, living wild in the desert, far from the haunts of men.

in the presence of all his brethren] R.V. marg. over against. Cf. 25:18. “Brethren”: see notes on 13:8, 14:14. While “in the presence,” or “in the face of” all his brethren, might legitimately be rendered “to the east of” the Israelites, the east was scarcely the quarter in which the Ishmaelites were chiefly found. A better explanation gives to the words the meaning of a foe, dwelling close at hand and “over against” his brethren, ever ready to attack and raid their territory.

the Lord that spake unto her] These words definitely identify the Angel with a manifestation of the Almighty; see v. 7.

Thou art a God that seeth] LXX Σὺ ὁ Θεὸς ὁ ἐφιδών με, Lat. Tu Deus qui vidisti me. Hagar designates the Divine Person who had spoken to her, by the name Êl, with the epithet, or attribute, of “Vision”: see note on 14:18. She says, “Thou art Êl roi,” i.e. “a God of Seeing,” or “of Vision.” The familiar rendering, “Thou God seest me,” is, with our present text, incorrect.

Have I even here looked after him that seeth me] According to this rendering, the emphasis is on the words “even here.” The meaning is, “have I, even here, in the wilderness, met God? and, though I knew Him not, yet, after He had gone, I perceived that it was He.” The awkwardness of the phrase, “after him,” is obvious. The difficulty of the passage was realized at a very early time: LXX καὶ γὰρ ἐνώπιον εἶδον ὀφθέντα μοι, Lat. profecto hic vidi posteriora videntis me (explaining the clause from Ex. 33:23).

On the assumption that the text is corrupt, Wellhausen conjectures “have I seen [God, and remained alive] after [my] vision,” reading Elohim for halôm, and inserting va-eḥi. This gives a good sense; but is rendered doubtful by the alteration of the unusual word halôm (= “even hither”).

Similarly, Ball conjectures “Have I even seen God, and survived?” (S.B.O.T.) It may be assumed that Hagar’s utterance denoted joy and thankfulness for having seen Jehovah, and for having lived afterwards. Cf. 32:30; Ex. 3:6, 19:21; Judg. 13:22; 1 Sam. 6:19.

Beer-lahai-roi] The R.V. marg. the well of the living one who seeth me is an impossible translation of the text. Another rendering is, “Well of the Seeing alive,” i.e. “Where one sees God and remains alive.” The popular belief was, that he who saw God would die. See previous note.

Probably the name Beer-lahai-roi was explained by a popular etymology which connected its pronunciation with the sound of the Hebrew words ḥai = “living” and roi = “vision.” A well, or spring, in a desert was generally deemed by the early nomad peoples to be frequented by a Divine presence.

between Kadesh and Bered] For Kadesh, see note on 14:7. Bered has not been identified. Hagar’s well is commonly supposed to be the same as Ain Muweileh, a spot where there are springs, S. of Beersheba, and on the caravan road to Egypt.

15, 16. The Birth of Ishmael. (P.)

These verses are from P, and are inserted in place of J’s account of the birth of Ishmael.

Abram called … Ishmael] See note on v. 11. The father here gives the name as usually in P: see notes on 4:1, 17, 25, 5:3.

fourscore and six years old] An instance of P’s careful computation of chronology. Compare the statements in v. 3 and 12:4 with the years given here.

Ch. 17. The Institution of the Rite of Circumcision. (P.)

    1–8.    The Covenant with Abram.

    9–14.    Circumcision the Token of the Covenant.

    15–22.    The Promise to Sarai.

    23–27.    Abraham circumcises his household.

The whole of this chapter is from P.

ninety years old and nine] There has been an interval of 13 years since the birth of Ishmael in 16:16.

the Lord] “Jehovah,” used here in P, probably, for the special purpose of connecting the covenant of Abram with Him whose full name was revealed to Moses, Ex. 6:3. Or, as not infrequently must have happened, one sacred name has been substituted for another by editor or copyist.

Elsewhere in this chapter (vv. 3, 7, 8, 9, 18, 19, 22, 23) Elohim occurs, as usual in P’s narrative.

I am God Almighty] Heb. Êl Shaddai. Notice the opening formula, “I am,” used in this manifestation. Cf. 35:11.

The name Êl Shaddai is that by which, according to Ex. 6:3 (P), God “appeared” in the patriarchal age, and before the revelation to Moses of the name Jehovah (JHVH=Jahveh). This title Êl Shaddai occurs in 28:3, 35:11, 43:14, 48:3 (cf. 49:25; Num. 24:4, 16). Shaddai alone occurs frequently (31 times) in the Book of Job; in prose it is usually found with Êl = “God Almighty.”

The derivation of the word Shaddai has hitherto baffled enquiry. (1) The old Rabbinic explanation, that it consisted of two combined words (sh-, and dai) meaning “one who is All-sufficient,” is quite impossible; but it accounts for the rendering of Aquila and Symmachus ὁ ἱκανός. (2) It has been derived from a root (shdd) meaning “to destroy,” which may be illustrated from Isai. 13:6, Joel 1:15. (3) Another suggestion connects it with shêdim = “demons”; see note on 14:3. (4) Others conjecture a derivation giving it the meaning of “the storm God.” (5) LXX renders, in Pent., by ὁ θεός μου, Vulg. “omnipotens.” The word is an ancient epithet of unknown origin, whose general meaning is that of irresistible power.

For Êl with Shaddai, see note on 14:18.

English readers will recollect the use of the name “Shaddai” in John Bunyan’s Holy War.

The word appears in the compound proper names “Zurishaddai” (Num. 1:6, 2:12), “Ammishaddai” (Num. 2:25).

walk before me] For this word “walk,” see 5:22, 24; 6:9. Here it is the “walk,” not “with,” but “in the presence of.” The idea is that of the progress in personal life and conduct in the continual realization of God’s presence. In P there is no supposition of any code of law before the time of Moses. The rite of circumcision, whose observance is commanded in this chapter, the prohibition against eating blood given in chap. 9:4, and the implied recognition of the Sabbath (2:1), are the only external observances of the patriarchal age recognized in P. Here the command, “walk before me,” is simply that of living a good life in the sight of God. This is “to be well pleasing in his sight”: hence LXX renders εὐαρέστει.

The substance of the command is expressed in 18:19, “keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgement”; Deut. 10:12, “to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God”; Micah 6:8, “to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

be thou perfect] See note on 6:9. Cf. Job 1:1, 8; Luke 1:6.

And I will make my covenant] See note on 15:9, 18. The words of this verse imply no knowledge of the covenant described in chap. 15. The covenant has yet to be made. P’s account of the covenant is different from that of J; and, the two traditions being distinct, there is no allusion here to the previous narrative.

fell on his face] The prostration of humility and reverence, as in v. 17. Cf. Num. 14:5.

father of a multitude of nations] “Multitude,” hamôn = “tumult.” LXX πολλῶν ἐθνῶν.

Abram] The shorter form is here used for the last time. Except in Genesis, it only occurs in 1 Chron. 1:27, Neh. 9:7.

thy name shall be Abraham] The change from “Abram” to “Abraham” is associated with the covenant promise that the patriarch shall be “the father of a multitude of nations” (‘ab hamôn gôyyîm). As in many other instances, we have here a resemblance through assonance, and not a real derivation of a proper name. There is no such word as raham meaning “a multitude.” “Abraham” and “Abram” have, until recently, been regarded as forms of the same name, “Abiram,” which meant “exalted father,” or “the father is Ram,” i.e. “the exalted one.” But the longer name has been found in several Babylonian monuments belonging to the reign of Ammi-zaduga, who was tenth in the dynasty founded by Hammurabi. According to the distinguished Assyriologist, Ungnad, the Babylonian pronunciation was Abaram, and the meaning “He loves the father.”

a multitude of nations] The promise of the covenant in P contemplates not only the nation of Israel (as J, 12:2, 18:18, and E, 46:3), but also the kindred nations of Edom and Ishmael.

kings shall come out of thee] Cf. v. 16 and 35:11 (P). The promise contains a reference to the Israelite monarchy. This is recognized as overruled by God (cf. 1 Sam. 11, 12) to be the means of the people’s blessing and expansion. Cf. Num. 24:14, 17–19.

With the “kings” of Israel, compare the “princes” of “Ishmael” (v. 20) and “the dukes of Edom” (36:40).

for an everlasting covenant] Cf. 13, 19. LXX εἰς διαθήκην αἰώνιον. The relationship is to be one transcending the limits of time. The covenant is to be “established,” cf. 6:18, 9:9. The idea is slightly different from that of the covenant being “made,” 15:18. There the phrase refers back to the solemnity of ancient binding institutions; here it points forward to the permanence of a new and enduring relationship. God undertakes to be the God of Abraham and of his descendants. He will take care of them as His own, and they on their side will obey and serve Him as His people. Cf. Ex. 6:7; Deut. 26:17.

the land of thy sojournings] This is explained to be “all the land of Canaan.” The word “sojournings” denotes “residences of a stranger” (cf. 15:13). The stranger (gêr) has no fixed possession in a land. The land where he has been a stranger is now promised to become his settled possession. The promise, therefore, reverses Abraham’s present position. The land will be no longer one of “sojourning” (megûrîm), but a “possession” (aḥuzzah). Cf. 28:4, 36:7, 37:1, 47:9; Ex. 6:4 (all in the P narrative). For “everlasting possession,” see 48:4 (P).

9–14. Circumcision the Token of the Covenant

thou shalt keep] “Keep” in the sense of “observe”: the reverse is to “break” (v. 14) the covenant. Notice the sing, “thou,” and the plur. “ye shall keep” in v. 10; cf. the interchange of plur. and sing. in vv. 11, 12, 13.

shall be circumcised] The rite of circumcision, which is here given as the symbol of the covenant with Abraham and his seed, was no new institution. In Abraham’s time it was already a well-known practice. It is adopted as the sign of the covenant, and consecrated to be the abiding pledge and witness of the relationship between the God who revealed Himself to Abraham and the people of which Abraham was the founder.

Circumcision is found to have been practised among the peoples of Africa at a very early time. In Egypt records of the practice are said to go back to an age many centuries previous to the time of Abraham. From Egypt it is said to have been transmitted into Phoenicia and Syria (see Herodotus, ii. 114). From the present account it is clear that the Israelites believed the institution to have had its origin in the patriarchal era. We learn from Jer. 9:25, 26 that it was practised by Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites, as well as by Egyptians and Israelites.

The custom is prevalent in very different parts of the world. For instance, it is found in S. Africa and in Madagascar.

It very possibly has some connexion with the cuttings and tattooings by which the savage avowed his relationship to the Deity of his tribe, and hoped to secure his favour by wearing his sign. Hence it took rank with the distinctive badges of a tribe or people.

Recent investigation has not tended to support the theory that circumcision has any connexion with primitive child sacrifice; nor, again, that it took its origin from hygienic motives. Apparently, it represents the dedication of the manhood of the people to God. In the history of Israel, it has survived as the symbol of the people belonging to Jehovah through His special election. Its significance in Israel is something quite distinct from that in other circumcised peoples. This corporeal sacrament remained to the Israelite, when every other tie of religion or race had been severed.

For its renewal (a) in the time of Moses, (b) in the time of Joshua, see Ex. 4:25; Josh. 5:2. In both of these passages the use of a stone, or flint, instrument possibly represents the survival of the rite from an age of remotest antiquity, before the introduction of metal.

For circumcision as an honourable badge, the absence of which would be regarded as a reproach in Egypt, see Josh. 5:7–9. The alleged omission of the Philistines to practise this rite (Jud. 14:3; 1 Sam. 31:4; 2 Sam. 1:20) may possibly be due to their foreign origin.

a token] i.e. an outward sign. Cf. the rainbow which was the token of the covenant of Noah, 9:12, 13.

he that is eight days old] The performance of the rite at this early age is distinctive of the Israelite usage. Cf. 21:4; Lev. 12:3; Luke 1:59, 2:21; Phil. 3:5. The operation at this exceedingly early age (see note on v. 25) is probably for the purpose (1) of including all males, (2) of coinciding with the first period of the mother’s uncleanness, Lev. 12:2, 3, (3) of inflicting the smallest degree of suffering.

every male] The important principle is here laid down that the rite is to be required of every male member of the household. All slaves are to be circumcised, both those “born in the house” (cf. 14:14), and those “bought with money” (cf. Ex. 12:44). It was thus that the first principles of charity were interwoven with the foundation of the Chosen People. The privileges of the covenant relation are at once extended beyond the literal seed of Abraham.

shall be cut off] The penalty of being “cut off” is frequently mentioned in P. It does not appear certain, (1) whether the penalty is to be inflicted by God or by man; (2) whether, if it be the infliction of a judicial punishment by man, it denotes capital punishment, or expulsion from the ranks of the community. The formula has probably been transmitted from a very early period; and the lapse of time led to change in practice. Thus, in Ex. 31:13, 14, the penalty of death is inflicted by the people: see Num. 15:32–36. But, in Lev. 17:10, 20:3, the sentence is pronounced by God, “I will cut him off.”

from his people] Lit. “from his peoples,” a phrase used by P, which seems to denote “father’s kin,” and evidently possessed a special technical meaning of clanship. See note on 25:8.

15–22. The Promise to Sarai

Sarah shall her name be] That is, Princess. The name “Sarai” (LXX Σάρα) is altered to “Sarah” (LXX Σάῤῥα). The name “Sarah” is the feminine form of the Heb. Sar, “a prince.” Other explanations which give the meaning “the contentious one,” or “the merry one,” are improbable. “Sarai” may possibly have been an older form of “Sarah.” It cannot mean, as used to be asserted, “my princess.”

nations … kings of peoples] See note on v. 6.

fell upon his face] See v. 3.

laughed] The incredulous laughter of Abraham here, according to P, should be compared with that of Sarah, in 18:12, according to J, as a play upon the name “Isaac” and its meaning of “laughter.”

Along with the incredulity must be reckoned the joy of the assurance that the promise of a son should be fulfilled. The joy of that hope, and of its significance to the whole world, is the subject of the allusion in, John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.”

ninety years old] The age of Sarah, nine years younger (cf. v. 24) than Abraham.

said unto God] The previous verse contained what Abraham “said in his heart.” Aloud he expresses his incredulity in a more reverent manner, shewing that his hope of descendants rested upon Ishmael.

might live before thee] i.e. that his life might be blessed by God’s special protection.

Sarah thy wife] God’s answer in this verse is made to the utterance of Abraham’s heart (v. 17), and not of his lips (v. 18).

thou shalt call his name Isaac] R.V. marg. “From the Heb. word meaning to laugh.” See 21:3. The name Isaac is here, and in 18 and 21, associated with “laughter.” The word “he laughed,” used in v. 17, has the same root letters (ṣḥq) as the name “Isaac.” The name “laughter” will thus commemorate the involuntary doubt of Abraham (v. 17) to which St Paul refers (Ro. 4:19), “without being weakened in faith he considered his own body now as good as dead (he being about a hundred years old) and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”

Note that the father is commanded to give the name; see note on 5:3 (P).

as for Ishmael, I have heard thee] This verse contains the reply to Abraham’s spoken words in v. 18. “I have heard thee” contains a reference to the meaning of the name “Ishmael” = “God hears.” See note on 16:11.

twelve princes] Recorded in 25:13–16. As in the family of Israel, so also in that of Ishmael, the number “twelve” symbolizes the distribution and organization of a people under responsible leaders, and represents ancient usage.

God went up] This expression, which occurs also in 35:13 (P), means that God returned to His dwelling-place, which the Israelite believed to be above the Heavens.

23–27. Abraham circumcises his Household

And Abraham took, &c.] This verse repeats the directions contained in vv. 11–13.

in the selfsame day] As in v. 26: see note on 7:13. The expression is characteristic of P. The performance of this rite upon all the males of Abraham’s household, consisting of several hundred (cf. 14:14), in one day is hardly to be understood literally. The narrative is more concerned with the thought of the symbolism of a ritual precept, than with its literal practicability. The operation for full-grown males is a serious one, and not unattended with risk, cf. 34.

Ishmael … thirteen years old] The mention of Ishmael and of his age, is of interest; for it implies (1) the fact that the Ishmaelite people practised circumcision; (2) the possible reminiscence of a variant custom by which it was performed at the age of thirteen years, instead of eight days; as in Israel, cf. v. 12. The modern Arabian use is said to be much later in life than that of the Jews, and in some cases corresponds with the age of Ishmael. A boy at 13 was regarded as on the threshold of manhood. Origen (Euseb. Praep. Evang. vi. 11) and Ambrose (de Abrah. ii. 348) mention fourteen as the age for the practice of the rite among the Egyptians.

Chs. 18, 19. The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (J)

    18:1–15.    Visit of three Angels to Abraham, and the promise of a son to Sarah.

    16–33.    Colloquy of Jehovah with Abraham; Jehovah’s purpose to overthrow Sodom and Gomorrah and the intercession of Abraham.

    19:1–23.    Visit of two Angels to Lot in Sodom, and the escape of Lot to Zoar.

    24–28.    The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the Plain.

    30–38.    The origin of the Moabites and Ammonites.

With the exception of 19:29, which is from P, the whole of this remarkable section is from J. Few passages in the O.T. narrative can rival it in simplicity, vividness, and grace of style.

The interposition of this section tends to heighten the expectancy with which the reader awaits the fulfilment of the promise; and to augment the impression of the Divine favour and esteem in which the patriarch is held.

1–15. Visit of three Angels to Abraham, and the Promise of a Son to Sarah (J)

the Lord appeared] The personal Theophany of Jehovah (cf. 16:13) was evidently at first not recognized by Abraham.

the oaks of Mamre] Better, as R.V. marg., terebinths. See note on 13:18. Mamre is here the name of a place, not of a chieftain (14:24).

in the heat of the day] i.e. at noontide, as in 2 Sam. 4:5. Cf. 1 Sam. 11:9, “by the time the sun is hot”; Neh. 7:3. For “the cool of the day,” see 3:8.

lo, three men] The sudden appearance of the three men before the tent is especially recorded. Their approach had not been observed. As in the case of 32:24, Josh. 5:13, Jud. 13:10, 11, the angelic visitants are not distinguishable from ordinary men.

bowed himself to the earth] Cf. 19:1, 23:7, 33:3, 42:6; the regular gesture of salutation towards those of higher rank.

My lord] R.V. marg. O Lord. The Heb. word so rendered has received three different translations.

(1) “O Lord,” as in vv. 27, 30–32, Adonâi, addressed to God. So the Massoretic Heb. text, adding the word “holy,” as a note, to safeguard the meaning and the pronunciation.

(2) “my lords,” adonâi, as if Abraham addressed his three visitors together: compare the plural in vv. 4, 5.

(3) “my lord” (with change of vocalization), adônî (cf. 23:6, 11). The sing. is used in v. 3 (“thy servant”). This third rendering seems the most probable: (a) there is no sign of Abraham’s recognizing the real character of the strangers; (b) it would seem probable that he instinctively recognized one of them as the superior in position, though he does not perceive in him the manifestation of Jehovah until after v. 15.

wash your feet] Abraham’s offer of hospitable welcome is said to be a faithful representation of the reception of a traveller by an Eastern sheikh. Here we have its various aspects of (1) the courteous greeting; (2) the feet washing; (3) the repast and personal attendance by the host; (4) the escort on the road at departure.

The washing of the feet is necessary for comfort as well as cleanliness in the East where sandals are worn. Cf. 19:2, 24:32, 43:24; Luke 7:44; John 13:14.

rest yourselves under the tree] Abraham invites them to recline in the shade, while the meal is made ready. It does not necessarily indicate the posture at the meal. Judging from 1 Sam. 9:22, 20:5, 1 Kings 13:20, a sitting posture was usual among the Israelites. Probably we should understand that, in this scene, as in 27:19, Jud. 19:6, those who ate were seated on the ground, the food being placed in front of them.

a morsel of bread] Cf. Judg. 19:5. With true Oriental subservience of speech Abraham gives this description of the generous entertainment which he intends to provide. For this modesty of speech as a formula of courtesy, cf. 13:9, 23:11; 2 Sam. 24:22, 23.

comfort ye your heart] As in Jud. 19:5, 8; lit. “support your heart,” Lat. confortate cor vestrum. The English word “comfort,” derived from the Lat., originally had the meaning of “strengthen.” The Heb. word here used is found in Ps. 104:15, “bread that strengthened man’s heart.”

forasmuch as] Marg. for therefore: cf. 19:8, 33:10 (J). Abraham graciously assumes that the strangers have only honoured him with a visit, in order to allow him to provide for their refreshment and entertainment on their journey.

into the tent unto Sarah] Sarah does not appear before the strangers. She is occupied with the baking. Abraham and his servant are responsible for the selection and killing of a calf, the cooking of the meat, and the procuring of butter and milk from the herd. A meal in which meat is provided is a rarity in a Bedouin’s life, and is the sign of the offering of hospitality.

three measures of fine meal] A “measure” is a seah, or one-third of an ephah. The amount, therefore, represented by three seahs was one ephah. It is the same quantity mentioned by our Lord in Matt. 13:33, “the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal.” The seah contained nearly a peck and a half.

fine meal] Two words are here used, ḳemaḥ and sôleth, meaning “meal,” “fine flour.”

cakes] These would be baked on flat hot stones placed in the clay oven, or in the hot ashes which were sometimes heaped up over them; hence LXX ἐγκρυφίαι, Lat. panes subcinericii. Cf. 1 Kings 19:6.

7. fetched a calf] We must remember that meat is rarely eaten by the tent-dwelling nomads. The killing of an animal for a repast indicated a desire to do special honour to a guest.

butter, and milk] Butter (ḥem’ah, LXX βούτυρον) is not what we should call butter, but rather “curds,” mentioned here and Judg. 5:25, as a cool and refreshing delicacy to be offered to a guest. It is called in the East leben. It is probably this which we find so often mentioned with honey, e.g. 2 Sam. 17:29; Isa. 7:22. The milk (ḥâlâb) would be the fresh milk of sheep or goats.

they did eat] The manifestation of the Deity is here, as in 19:3, associated with a meal. Cf. Exod. 24:11; Judg. 6:19, 20. God’s Presence may bless the simplest duties of home life.

Sarah thy wife] The knowledge of his wife’s name must have caused Abraham surprise, and gives perhaps the first indication of his guests’ real character.

I will certainly] A first hint of Divine knowledge of the parents’ grief over their childlessness.

when the season cometh round] R. V. marg. Heb. liveth, or, reviveth. A strange phrase, probably meaning “at this time a year hence,” as in 17:21. Cf. 2 Kings 4:16, 17, LXX κατὰ τὸν καιρὸν τοῦτον εἰς ὥρας, Lat. tempore isto, vita comite. Skinner conjectures, with a slight alteration of the vowel points, “according to the time of a pregnant woman,” on the ground that the Heb. word for “liveth” means in modern Heb. “a woman in child-birth.”

Sarah … in the tent door] Sarah was not visible, but the conversation of the men under the tree was easily audible to her at the tent opening.

heard] Better, “was listening,” which reproduces the Heb. participle.

which was behind him] Probably the LXX preserves the right reading, “and she was behind it,” i.e. the door.

well stricken in age] An Old English expression for well-advanced in years: cf. “… his noble queen Well struck in years” (Shakespeare, Rich. III, i. 1). Heb. “entered into days,” LXX προβεβηκότες, Lat. provectae aetatis. Cf. Luke 1:7; Heb. 11:11, 12.

Sarah laughed within herself] This is the laughter, according to J, which furnished a reason for the name “Isaac”; and on that account it is here emphasized. See, for the reason in P, 17:17.

waxed old] The word in the original is forcible, and is used elsewhere for worn-out raiment, e.g. “shall wax old like a garment,” Ps. 102:26.

Wherefore did Sarah laugh?] The Divine nature of Abraham’s guest is shewn in His knowledge of Sarah’s thought, cf. 17:19. Here, for the first time, Abraham’s Visitant is identified with Jehovah.

too hard for the Lord] Lit., as marg, wonderful. The LXX rendering μὴ ἀδυνατεῖ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ ῥῆμα finds an echo in St Luke 1:37. Compare Jer. 32:17, “Ah! Lord God! behold, thou hast made, the heaven and the earth by thy great power …: there is nothing too hard for thee.”

He who thus speaks of Jehovah, is Himself Jehovah. Cf. 16:11, 19:13.

I laughed not] Sarah apparently emerges, in confusion and fear, to deny the guest’s statement. This occasions the fourth repetition of the word “laugh” in these four verses, by the short reply, “Nay, but thou didst laugh.”

16–33. Colloquy of Jehovah with Abraham, &c. (J.)

looked toward Sodom] The idea is that of directing the gaze from an eminence. A view of the Dead Sea is to be obtained from the hills in the neighbourhood of Hebron: cf. 19:28. The LXX and Lat. add “and Gomorrah” after “Sodom.”

to bring them on the way] See note on 12:20.

And the Lord said] i.e. within Himself: cf. 20:11, “I thought,” lit. “I said.”

Shall I hide from Abraham] With the thought of this verse, cf. Amos 3:6, 7, “shall evil befall a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Here Jehovah purposes to reveal His intention to Abraham on account of his position as one who was in covenant relation, and the recipient of the promise (v. 18).’

blessed in him] See note on 12:3.

I have known him] See Amos 3:2. Personal knowledge is the basis of confidence and love; the choice of Abraham is no arbitrary election, but the result of knowledge.

to the end that, &c.] The purpose for which God has known and sought out Abraham is here epitomized; (1) that, through the obedience of him and his folk, a true righteousness, according to “the way of the Lord,” may be propagated; (2) that the Divine fulfilment of the promise may be carried out unhindered. Family life is the sphere of chosen service.

For the picture here given of a righteous and godly life, cf. 17:1.

Because … because] Better, as marg., Verily … verily.

the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah] See 19:13. (1) Either, this is the complaint concerning Sodom and Gomorrah going up to Heaven. The genitive “of” is then objective, like “the report of Tyre” (Is. 23:5), “the spoil of thine enemies” (Deut. 20:14). (2) Or, it is the cry by the cities, which are personified, and which make their loud complaint against the inhabitants. The genitive then is subjective. See 4:10.

their sin is very grievous] Cf. 13:13; Ezek. 16:49, 50.

I will go down] Cf. 11:5, 7. The Dead Sea lies in a deep depression to which there would be a continuous descent from Hebron; so that the words may be also understood quite literally. The strong anthropomorphism is in the character of J.

And the men turned] There is nothing definitely to shew that all three Angels are not here intended. But, as the passage stands, Jehovah here separates Himself from the two Angels mentioned in 19:1.

Abraham stood yet] Standing is the posture of prayer and intercession. The dialogue (1) emphasizes Abraham’s intimacy with Jehovah, (2) heightens expectation of the catastrophe.

The Massoretic note on this verse suggests that the original reading ran “and Jehovah stood yet before Abraham,” and that this was altered for reverential reasons. The alteration was included in the list of the so-called Tikkun Sopherim, or “Corrections of the Scribes.” The versions, however, shew no uncertainty as to the reading. Targum of Onkelos has “And Abraham still ministered in prayer before the Lord.”

Abraham drew near] Abraham’s intercession comes as a reply to Jehovah’s statement in vv. 20, 21, from which the doom of the cities might be inferred. It forms one of the most striking and pathetic passages in the book. It expresses the generous instincts of the patriarch’s nature. Nothing can exceed the dignified simplicity and deference in the utterance of his submissive expostulation. What adds to the effect, is that the servant of Jehovah, the nomad sheikh, pleads on behalf of the people of the Plain, dwellers in cities, sunk in iniquity. His concern for Lot, doubtless, forms the motive of the intercession, though Lot’s name and relationship are not put forward in extenuation of the plea. The great principle on which it rests is that the action of God cannot be arbitrary; and that Jehovah will not act as the heathen gods, but only in accordance with the perfect standard of justice. The virtues of mercy and forgiveness, which operate in the human heart, are assumed to be proportionately more potent in the counsels of Jehovah. If this abstract reasoning holds good, the safety of Lot and his family may be left securely in the hands of perfect justice.

consume] A word for utter destruction, as in 19:15, 17.

the righteous with the wicked] Cf. especially the similar passage in Jer. 5:1, “run ye too and fro through the streets of Jerusalem … if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth; and I will pardon her.”

spare the place] The word in the Heb. means literally “and take away for the place,” i.e. its guilt, and so “forgive,” as in Num. 14:19.

That be far from thee] An exclamation of deprecation, like “God forbid,” or the Lat. nefas tibi sit. LXX μηδαμῶς, Lat. absit a te. Cf. chap. 20:4, “Lord, wilt thou slay even a righteous nation?”

that so the righteous should be as the wicked] This was one of the great problems of religious thought in ancient Israel. The Book of Job is devoted to the consideration of this mystery of human life. Under a Divine Government of the Universe, should the innocent be consumed in the same overthrow as the evil-doer? If the Israelite’s sense of justice rebelled against the notion that suffering always implied sin, conversely it cherished the hope that the suffering of the innocent might vicariously be for the good of the community.

the Judge of all the earth] A very remarkable declaration that Jehovah is supreme throughout the world. Whether or not the writer admitted the existence of other gods in other lands, he here asserts the complete sovereignty of Jehovah: cf. 6:1 ff., 8:21, 22, 11:1–9. This is not monotheism, but it is the stage next before it. The “Judge” of a Semitic people was ruler, judge, and advocate. God does not judge after the sight of the eyes, or the hearing of the ears, but righteous judgement. Cf. Deut. 32:4; Isa. 11:3.

do right] Lit. “do judgement.” The Judge (shôphêt) will do judgement (mishpât). This is the foundation of a moral belief.

“Righteousness is one, whether in God or in man. It would be wrong in a human judge or ruler to condemn the righteous with the wicked, or destroy them indiscriminately … The fact that God is God does not withdraw Him and His actions from the sphere of moral judgement. Nothing would be right in God because He is God, which would not be right in Him were He man” (Davidson, Theology of O.T. p. 130). This is one great contrast between the Christian and the Mahommedan view of God.

dust and ashes] Two alliterative words in the Heb. (âphar va-êpher) which defy reproduction in English: cf. 1:2, 4:14. For the dust of man’s frame, cf. 2:7, 3:19. See a similar use of the phrase in Job 30:19, 42:6.

communing with] i.e. “speaking to,” as in vv. 27, 29, 31.

unto his place] i.e. “the terebinths of Mamre” (v. 1), from which Abraham had gone forth to escort the Angels (v. 16). In the expression “the Lord went his way” (Heb. “went”) the writer leaves us uninformed as to the manner of Jehovah’s separation from Abraham. There is no mention of “Sodom,” as the place to which he “went,” is in v. 22.

For other instances in which human intercession is raised to avert Divine anger, and is the means of forgiveness, cf. Ex. 32:9–14; Num. 14:15–20; Amos 7:4–6. In all these cases, he that intercedes seeks, on the one hand, to enter into the mind of God in His holiness and in His mercy; and then, on the other, to be the spokesman and representative of the community whose sin he confesses, and in whose behalf he entreats forgiveness and deliverance.

Ch. 19:1–23. Visit of the two Angels to Lot in Sodom; Lot’s Deliverance and Escape to Zoar (J)

the two angels] See 18:22. It has been conjectured that the original text had here, as in vv. 5, 8, 10, 12, “the men” (i.e. the “three men” of 18:2); and that the substitution of the words “the two angels” has been made from motives of reverence, in order (1) to harmonize the action of this chapter with the scene of Abraham’s pleading with Jehovah in chap. 18, and (2) to separate Jehovah from contact with the evil of Sodom.

at even] They had visited Abraham at noon: see 18:1.

in the gate of Sodom] The wide arches of ancient Oriental city gates, contained recesses which were the resort of leading citizens; and in which business was transacted, bargains made, and justice administered, cf. 23:10, 18, 34:20; Deut. 21:19; Ruth 4:1.

bowed himself] See 18:2.

my lords] adonai. The Massoretic note upon this word is “profane,” i.e. not the Divine name: see note on 18:3.

turn aside] Lot’s words are a good example of Eastern hospitality. Possibly to this passage and 18:3 reference is made in Heb. 13:2.

in the street] We must be careful not to connect the modern idea of a “street” with this word, which means rather a wide open space. Cf. Judg. 19:15; Ezra 10:9; Neh. 8:1, “the broad place.”

The refusal of “the men” is partly to be explained as a piece of Oriental courtesy, but partly, also, to elicit the avowal that what would be safe in other towns could not be risked in Sodom.

he urged them greatly] The gentle compulsion of Oriental courtesy. To let a stranger sleep out at night would be contrary to all canons of civility, cf. Jud. 19:16–22.

a feast] Lit. “a drinking feast,” and thence “a banquet.” Perhaps we may assume that the Angels appeared as poor men needing food and shelter. The neglect of the poor and needy is part of the prophet’s reproach against Sodom in Ezek. 16:49.

unleavened bread] Cakes baked hastily without leaven or yeast; the “unleavened cakes” of Jud. 6:19.

the men of the city] The repulsive incident recorded in this passage (vv. 4–11) contrasts the hospitable conduct of Lot with the gross behaviour of the people of Sodom towards strangers, and has for all time associated the name of the city with shameless vice (cf. Isa. 3:9).

from every quarter] Lit. “from the end.” As in 1 Kings 12:31, the phrase means “from all classes of the people.” The writer insists upon the fact that “all” of every age and class were involved in the same guilt. Compare the scene in Jud. 19:23.

forasmuch as] R.V. marg. for therefore: cf. 18:5. Lot’s proposal, so atrocious in our ears, may have been deemed meritorious in an Eastern country, where no sacrifice was considered too great to maintain inviolate the safety of a stranger who had been received in hospitality. That Lot should have thought of imperilling the honour of his family, and not have rather hazarded his own life, is due not so much to the weakness of the man as to the terribly low estimate of womanhood which prevailed at that time. A parallel is afforded by the story in Jud. 19. The three regulations of modern Arab law as to the protection of the stranger are recorded by Robertson Smith in his Kinship, p. 259, “(1) the man whose tent rope has touched thine is thy stranger; (2) so also is he who journeys with thee by day and sleeps by thy side at night; (3) the guest who eats with thee is under thy protection, until he has eaten with another.”

Stand back] LXX ἀπόστα ἐκεί, Lat. recede illuc; cf. “give place,” Isai. 49:20.

This one fellow] Lot is reminded of his solitariness and of his foreign extraction.

came in to sojourn] The people contrast Lot’s position as a sojourner (gêr) in the city with his claim to decide and play the judge.

blindness] An unusual word for “blindness,” inflicted as a sudden temporary visitation, used here and 2 Kings 6:18. LXX ἀορασία.

And the men said] The incident just described had revealed the corrupt condition of the city. It had been tried by a simple test, and found wanting. Sodom is doomed; but Lot is to be saved.

any besides] The deliverance of the man carries with it the deliverance of the household.

son in law, and thy sons, &c.] A strange collocation. We should expect the sons and daughters first. Then again, why “son in law” in the singular? LXX has γαμβροί, which is probably a correction; Lat. generum. The proposal of Holzinger to put “son in law” in the previous clause is no improvement. Its prominence would be an additional difficulty.

we will destroy] See v. 24.

the cry of them] i.e. the cry against the people of Sodom; see note on 18:20.

the Lord hath sent us] Defining the position of the men in this and the previous chapter, as distinct from, and messengers of, Jehovah.

married his daughters] Better, as R.V. marg., were to marry, as Lat. qui accepturi erant. This seems more probable than the rendering of the R.V., and LXX τοὺς εἰληφότας. The verb used here means literally “the takers of.” For Lot’s daughters were in the house with him: Lot went out to find his “sons in law”: the word “sons in law” may mean “the betrothed.” If the daughters had been married, they would not have been living with Lot.

as one that mocked] The same word in the Hebrew as that rendered “laughed” in 18:12, and “sporting” in 26:8. The Lat. has quasi ludens = “as one who was playing.”

when the morning arose] At day-break. The doom was to be inflicted before sun-rise (cf. v. 23). If Lot was still in the city, he too would perish: hence the men’s haste.

consumed] See 18:23.

iniquity] Better, as R.V. marg., punishment. See note, on the ambiguous meaning of the Hebrew word, in 4:13; cf. 1 Sam. 25:24; 2 Sam. 14:9.

But he lingered] It was difficult for Lot to realize the immediate and overwhelming nature of the doom announced by his visitants. His feelings for home and its associations made him hesitate. The versions misunderstood the Heb.; LXX καὶ ἐταράχθησαν, Lat. dissimulante illo.

the Lord being merciful unto him] An interesting clause, shewing that the men were agents of Jehovah’s tenderness, as well as of His severity, cf. Ps. 34:22: does it not also imply that, in the original version of the narrative, Jehovah is here one of “the men”?

he said] One of the men is spokesman, as in v. 21; but the plural “they said” is found in the LXX and Lat.

look not behind thee] The meaning of this direction, which recalls the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, is not quite obvious. It may be a prohibition either of irresolute lingering, or of regretful curiosity. It is, probably, also, a test of obedience, combined with the thought that man could not look upon Jehovah and live. Cf. 16:13; Ex. 19:21.

the Plain] i.e. the kikkar: see 13:10.

the mountain] i.e. the mountainous region on the east of the Dead Sea, “the mountains of Moab.”

my lord] R.V. marg. O Lord. The Massoretic note here, as in 18:3, is “holy,” regarding the word as the Divine name. Certainly in this chapter Jehovah is not so directly identified with one of “the men” as in chap. 18. The rendering “my lord” is, perhaps, to be preferred, as in 18:3. On the other hand, the mention of “Jehovah” in v. 16, and the words in vv. 22 and 24, “I cannot do anything till thou be come thither,” and “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom,” would sufficiently justify the other rendering. Jehovah and His Angel are one, cf. 16:7 ff. His Presence is in “the two” as in “the three men.”

found grace] Cf. 6:8 (J).

thy mercy] Lat. misericordiam tuam. The LXX rendering, τὴν δικαιοσ